A Place at the Table is our outreach program to help mitigate the rise in hunger and food insecurity that the Covid-19 pandemic has created.
This past May, Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church launched A Place at the Table, an outreach meal ministry designed to address the crisis of food insecurity in midtown Manhattan exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic.
In partnership with the Ecumenical Outreach Partnership, Fifth Avenue’s collaborative ministry with St. Patrick’s Cathedral and Saint Thomas Church that serves vulnerable neighbors in Midtown, A Place at the Table serves lunch to the hungry and vulnerable every Monday and Wednesday outside the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church building.
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.
The church has contracted with Rodrigo Rosas and the staff of Roxo Events to prepare and serve the meals 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 as a result of the pandemic.
“We are grateful that Rodrigo and his staff have been able to pivot from catering to supporting this much needed outreach ministry,” says the Rev. Kate Dunn, associate pastor for Congregational Care and Outreach. “They have brought not only their experience and skills, but their big, compassionate hearts. The food prepared in our kitchen and shared outside our church is made and served with love.”
A Place at the Table enhances the work of the Ecumical Outreach Partnership staff by helping to connect more people with available resources. Program director John Sheehan, case manager Robbie Sherman and director of homeless ministries, Pastor Seamus Campbell, are all on site during the meals getting to know the guests. In addition, a Ryan Health mobile medical clinic is also available most Wednesdays outside the lunch line, connecting our neighbors to vital primary care services, more important than ever during this time of pandemic.
A Place at the Table guests often return to FAPC on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons to receive social work and case management services from Ecumenical Outreach Partnership staff. “The meal program has been an excellent way for people in need of additional services to be connected to resources,” says Director John Sheehan. John recently received a card from one guest that said, “To each of you involved in an act of L-O-V-E, serving us on a line and being keepers of God’s commandments, I say THANK YOU for all of us.”
With cooler weather approaching, outreach staff has begun seeing limited numbers of people in the chapel on Tuesdays, following strict CDC safety protocols. This provides the opportunity to offer improved confidentiality, a respite from cold weather, and the ability to triage more vulnerable clients. John continues, “Through a collaborative working relationship with Breaking Ground Street Outreach, six people have been placed in emergency housing, and we also placed another person into permanent housing, all in the last month.”
In addition to meals and social services, pastoral care is also being provided through the ministry of Pastor Seamus, who is available for pastoral counseling and prayer. A number of A Place at the Table lunch guests have been joining Pastor Seamus for Sunday worship with the Madison Square Park congregation, which meets at Church of the Transfiguration at 2pm.
“As well as providing much needed physical nourishment to hungry neighbors during a time of heightened food insecurity, A Place at the Table has enhanced the existing ministries we have been able to offer,” says Kate. “We are so grateful for the generous support of members and friends of this congregation whose financial gifts have enabled the church to embrace this vital outreach and offer our neighbors A Place at the Table at this moment in time.”
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.