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Pantry Spotlight: St. John's Bread of Life

The NYC neighborhood that ranges from 14th Street to 34th Street and from 8th Ave over to the Hudson River may have changed a lot in the past 50 years, but the needs of the people living in that area haven’t. When the Capuchin Franciscans started St John’s Bread of Life Food Pantry – located on 30th Street just off 7th Ave – in the 1970s, there were many people living in SROs (Single Room Occupancies) and in need of food and services.

Fast-forward almost 50 years, and while it may not look the same as it did in the ‘70s, there’s still a need to assist the poor and elderly in the neighborhood, most of whom live on fixed incomes that don’t come close to covering their needs…and hosting a soup kitchen once a week is a meager band-aid for the poor that live here. “There’s no doubt, for our clientele are struggling,” says Sr Mary Perazza, one of the volunteers at Bread of Life. “especially the elderly.”

There are new people registering every week. Many are single women with children. But the biggest uptick in new clients are the elderly. In fact, the two groups that are always growing in number and need are seniors and grandparents thrust into the role of providing for their young grandchildren.

St. John’s serves 350 families every week. It’s a place for people to come that need something, anything…not just food. For instance, social clubs have been formed for people that need to get out of their apartments and be with other people.

At the same time, St John’s is also a place where its patrons know they can come when they desperately need help. In the cold winter months, patrons can come inside to wait in warmth before the pantry is open. And in the summer, the air-conditioning offers a respite from the oppressive heat.

It's important for people to feel welcome when they come to the pantry. As Sr Mary says, "we give the people some kind of hope, a sense of being respected and cared for in a world where people do not always get respect and care."

And it’s hard to put a price tag on that!

Note: St. John’s longtime director, Joe Spicketts, passed away in November. His commitment and compassion will be missed.

Volunteers come before work the day before to fill up the bags of food. Thanks to your contributions- we are able to provide cases of food weekly.

Volunteers are the key to our success. Our volunteers have befriended so many of our clientele.

Lines form hours in advance letting patrons see and visit with other friends in need.
Clientele are given the opportunity to come inside to wait away from the elements.
Always welcoming, always friendly: People are shown love and respect.
And the volunteers are there to help with the lifting and the welcoming.