A Spice of Hope for New Wave of Hungry People

Tags: Currents Uncategorized

By Tim Harfmann

When Junior Christie and his 18-year-old son, Daevon, are hungry, they turn to St. John’s Bread & Life — a Catholic organization in Bedford Stuyvesant that is fighting hunger in the Brooklyn diocese.

The Christies never thought they’d have to live in a shelter, but after their New Jersey home was condemned because of fire regulations, that’s where they ended up.

Due to overcrowding and because they wanted to remain together, no shelter in New Jersey would take them. They were forced to move to Brooklyn.

Now in his late 50s, Junior’s just grateful for a place to eat.

“It’s a very warm place as far as the people go, and it’s the understanding of the community and what’s needed,” he said.

Junior is not the only one thankful for St. John’s Bread & Life. More people than ever before are walking through their doors.

It’s a new wave of hungry people.

Sister Caroline Tweedy, executive director, said the faith-based non-profit is on track to serve almost a million meals this year. That’s up from over 860,000 meals served last year.

“We’re finding that the need is growing, and we’re going to be here to help them and support them,” said Sister Tweedy.

The need is growing in New York because it’s getting harder and harder for everyday people to afford the city they grew up in.

“Brooklyn is one of the most expensive places to live in the country, and they’re under-served communities. You’d be surprised where some of the folks are.”

Sister Tweedy said they’re mainly in areas with the elderly and working families, forcing them to choose between their next meal and a roof over their heads. She also credits gentrified communities, the transformation of neighborhoods where rent eats up paychecks.

One-in-five New Yorkers face hunger. Most of those people go to work every single day — like Junior’s son, Daevon.

He’s not only there for a meal, but he’s helping with the need. He’s interning at St. John’s, serving guests at the food pantry.

He said watching his dad receive a good meal brings him comfort.

“When I’m here and I don’t see him, I’m wondering, ‘where’s he at? Is he good? Is he eating?’ So, seeing him in here and making sure he eats and stuff like that is good,” said Daevon.

On June 26, Junior and other guests were treated to a special dish, butter chicken with chili garlic rice.

It was a different kind of meal that Obaid Kadwani, organizer of the day’s “Spice of Hope” event, said helps people feel better about their situation

“We might not be able to solve the entire problem, but we can make a day better for one person at a time,” said Kadwani.

At St. John’s Bread & Life, they’re striving to do that every day.