Since 1891, East Side House has been a beacon of hope for people in need. Deeply rooted in the communities they serve, East Side House keeps a finger on the pulse of the needs of their constituents. This has remained true as we all navigated this pandemic together.
It is no secret that New York City—and in particular the Bronx—was among the first in the nation to face the wrath of COVID-19. The world watched as we grappled with school closings, impaired or shut-down businesses, and the affliction of thousands of family members, neighbors, and colleagues.
Within a week after schools closed, East Side House was quick to provide emergency services by conducting needs assessments of the families they serve. Most revealing in those early days was the overwhelming need for food. Local food banks were being overwhelmed by demand and were forced to turn families away empty handed, leaving them to wonder where they would find their next meal.
Daniel Diaz, Executive Director of East Side House, shared this concern with Eric Wittenberg, a long-time supporter of East Side House and a Co-Chair of our annual Gala Preview of the New York International Auto Show. Wittenberg reached out to his circle of colleagues and friends. Serendipitously, the group had seen a segment on ABC News about farmers who were forced to destroy their crops due to the fall off of restaurants, stadiums, and schools.
These friends banned together, creating a group called Farms to Food Banks. The group tapped every resource they knew to get food to East Side House families. Within days, they had arranged for 43,000 pounds of potatoes to be shipped to the South Bronx from Cranney Farms in Oakley, Idaho, in a donated truck driven by a U.S. Army veteran. In the Bronx, East Side House staff members then rolled up their sleeves to bag, box, and distribute the potatoes and other pantry items. That week, 2,500 people were fed, and East Side House’s Harvest to Haven program was born. Today, East Side House has ramped up services to feed over 5000 people per week and now delivers prepared meals to over 900 homebound senior citizens.