This week Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church will launch a new outreach program to help mitigate the rise in hunger and food insecurity that the Covid-19 pandemic has created.
The program, called A Place at the Table, will provide meals to New Yorkers living on the streets through two venues—the Tuesday Night Community Dinners offered by the Urban Outreach Center on the Upper East Side, and the Ecumenical Outreach Partnership, Fifth Avenue’s collaborative ministry with St. Patrick’s Cathedral and Saint Thomas Church that serves vulnerable neighbors in Midtown.
“With the David B. Skinner Shelter and our daily program providing direct services to homeless neighbors both closed, we have been reassessing the most faithful way to reach out to the vulnerable during this crisis,” says the Rev. Kate Dunn, associate pastor for Congregational Care and Outreach. “We have become increasingly aware of growing food insecurity in New York City and feel called to help alleviate hunger in our community.”
City officials estimate that food insecurity has doubled since the pandemic began. More than 2 million people—roughly one in four New Yorkers—are dealing with hunger and food shortages.
Created in 1990, the Urban Outreach Center (a Fifth Avenue mission partner) works to assist low-income people, immigrants, and individuals and families who lack secure housing to obtain material necessities, build supportive networks and access vital social services. A Place at the Table will provide meals to more than 200 individuals.
The church has contracted with Rodrigo Rosas and the staff of Roxo Events to prepare and deliver the meals to the Urban Outreach Center each week. Rodrigo’s catering business, which operates from the church and serves a number of our ministries, has suffered a steep decline in business since the statewide shelter-in-place order was mandated in March.
Rodrigo and his team also will prepare an additional 50 meals per week to be distributed at the 55th Street entrance and through direct street outreach. John Sheehan, director of the Ecumenical Outreach Partnership, will resume his usual street outreach on a limited basis, providing not only food but also bottled water, face masks, hand sanitizer, and information on services and resources.
A Place at the Table currently is a five-week pilot program, financed by emergency outreach funds. If the program is a success, the church will evaluate other funding sources to maintain this ministry.
“We plan to launch A Place at the Table with the participation of church staff and Roxo Events staff only,” Kate says. “We are not asking for volunteer support at this time. But we welcome your prayers as we move forward with what we believe will be a life-saving program.”
If you would like to support A Place at the Table with a financial contribution, go to fapc.org/give and choose the fund “FAPC’s Hunger Initiative.” Thank you for your generosity.