By Andrew Pfadt-Trilling, Vivian Murray, and Joyce Minault (AHRC NYC)

New York City
is a city of contrasts. It is the financial capital of the world while 1.4
million residents rely on emergency food programs. A place where luxury
condominiums are built on the same block as people who don’t know where their
next meal is coming from.

Last year, AHRC
NYC was a recipient of a grant through the The Arc of the United States and the
Corporation for National and Community Service to organize its first MLK Day of
Service project to combat hunger and food insecurity. We saw this as a chance
to look at neighborhoods where there is a real need, but also where there are
passionate self-advocates and staff who want to be more connected and make an
impact in their communities. We identified three neighborhoods (Crown Heights
& Bushwick in Brooklyn; Lower East Side in Manhattan) and formed planning
teams of staff and self-advocates that lived or worked in that neighborhood and
asked: what if we planned a project that
fought food insecurity, brought neighbors together, and strengthened community
Here is the story of how the Crown Heights team, B’lynx (Brooklyn
Links Up) responded to that challenge.

B’lynx is a
diverse team of people with and without intellectual/developmental
disabilities, committed to enriching the Crown Heights community through
innovation, passion, and fun. Since 2014, B’lynx has participated in
community-based service projects and volunteer events with other local

The MLK Day of
Service grant gave B’lynx the chance to develop as community organizers and
take the lead in planning an initiative to bring people and organizations together
to make a difference in Crown Heights. The team was excited to take on this
role and when it came time to mobilize, self-advocates and staff began to hit
the streets canvasing, recruiting volunteers, and spreading the word.

that not everyone would be interested or comfortable doing the neighborhood
outreach, the team made sure there were other ways for everyone to get involved
and make an impact. Artists decorated boxes that were used for our city-wide
food drives and distributed them to local businesses. Others created
promotional materials such as flyers and bookmarks to raise awareness and
recruit volunteers that were distributed to local libraries, cafes, and
community centers. It truly takes a village to make something like this

Volunteers organize food for distribution

The hard work
of B’lynx paid off. On January 21st, 2019 over 50 volunteers came
out in the harsh weather to help those in need, distributing over 500 pounds of
food collected through the drive. They also provided hot meals to dozens of
households through Rescuing Leftover Cuisine, a nonprofit organization that
combats hunger and food waste by delivering excess food from restaurants to
those in need. 

On top of the
food-related volunteer activities of the day, B’lynx made sure the event also
provided a space to showcase community partners and other opportunities to give
back! Local organizations, such as community gardens and health centers, were
present to share resources. There were arts and crafts tables for kids, healthy
eating demos for all ages, and information of other volunteer opportunities in
the neighborhood.

The MLK Day of
Service has strengthened B’lynx even more and deepened their relationships in
the Crown Heights community. This past summer they took an active role in
neighborhood block parties, hosting arts activities for local children. B’lynx
and the other change teams at AHRC NYC are already busy planning and looking
forward to the upcoming 2020 MLK Day of Service, with the hope to help even
more people!

The post Connecting Passionate Volunteers to Meaningful Causes: Addressing Food Insecurity in NYC appeared first on The Arc.