One in six New York City residents skips meals to save money.
Each year in New York City alone, nearly 1.4 million people lack sufficient food. These people rely on charitable food programs to keep their families fed. But while different organizations collectively provide about 130 million pounds of food in NYC each year, there was historically limited coordination between them. This naturally affected the impact they were able to have on food insecurity across the city. “There’s a huge network of charitable food providers out there that has operated the same way for 30 years, by and large,” said Redstone Associate Principal Bob Shaver to Fast Company last November. Something had to change.
So in early 2015, major stakeholders in the NYC charitable food sector – City Harvest, United Way of New York City, New York City Human Resources Administration, and the New York State Department of Health-Hunger Prevention and Nutrition Assistance Program (HPNAP) – came together with the Helmsley Charitable Trust and the New York City Mayor’s Office of Food Policy to form the New York City Food Assistance Collaborative under a unified strategic plan that funded their work and aligned incentives.
In a new blog post in the Philanthropy News Digest, Helmsley Charitable Trust Program Officer Tracy Perrizo looks back at the work the collaborative has been able to accomplish so far, and shares valuable lessons the Foundation has learned along the way.
“Ultimately, Helmsley’s greatest contribution was to forge a process that helped strengthen ties and relationships among all stakeholders. Whether elbow-to-elbow around conference tables or piling into vans for pantry site visits, these relationships have inspired an ongoing exchange of ideas and mutual goals that are paving a path to future collaboration — collaboration that will continue long after we have expended our last grant dollar in support of these efforts.”
– Tracy Perrizo, Helmsley Charitable Trust, April 2018
Right from the start, the Foundation knew that to make the NYC Food Assistance Collaborative work, it “wasn’t enough to simply gather everyone in the same room and offer to provide the funds needed to get the process started.” Real impact required rolled-up sleeves and all hands on deck. And now, Perrizo continues, “the collaborative’s biggest success may be the fact that collaborative members have taken on new challenges beyond the scope of the original action plan and have chosen to keep working together.”
The collaborative has accomplished so much that could never have happened without their mutual commitment. And the lesson remains the same: working together works. Really.