New healthy food pantry debuts in Sunset Park

There’s a new purveyor of healthy foods in Sunset Park, one that can benefit those in need in the neighborhood.

The Table, a new Sunset Park food pantry developed by Family Health Centers at NYU Langone, opened to the public on April 5 at 6025 Sixth Avenue.

A little over a month later, the pantry — which includes fresh produce items available as well as some fresh protein items available such as eggs — was open to the media so that staffers could show off its comprehensive program to provide new nutritional resources that NYU Langone hopes will help improve the health of Sunset Park families, who utilize the resource on an appointment basis.

“Everything is reservation-based as opposed to just showing up and getting a bag of food,” said Katie Barth, the community health education and outreach coordinator at the Family Health Centers at NYU Langone. “We like to do things a bit differently. Eating healthy is a top priority for us, especially as a health center, so we are doing nutrition education and cooking demos, explaining why we should eat brown rice instead of white rice. We are trying to have folks change their eating habits.”

“I have seen this community change and become more robust and I also see the challenges aren’t going away for lots of the residents here,” noted Barth, who said she grew up a mere 10 blocks away from where the food pantry is located. “This is a service that hasn’t been provided in this specific neighborhood before.”

In addition, said Barth, because of the way the pantry works, “People are comfortable coming here. We don’t have a long process for documentation to get entry to the pantry. People are able to come to a one-stop shop as I like to call it and we have services available as well as community based programming.”

Among those on hand for the media open house on May 10 was Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, who has made the issue of healthy eating a priority for his administration.

“This is important for Sunset Park because you have a large population of people who would normally slip through the cracks,” noted Adams. “What I mean by that is that they won’t have access to  information that will help them prevent disease. When they come here, they find out what they can do about their diabetes. Government should be having an open mind, not a blind eye, to things that people need in their lives to make them whole.”

The media open house included a cooking demonstration, led by Debbie Rivera, health educator at Family Health Center at NYU Langone, who showed Adams how to make brown rice and beans with sauteed broccoli and peppers. She also discussed the importance of eating healthy.

“We eat in order to live. We don’t live in order to eat,” she said. “You have to enjoy what you eat, but you also have to be aware of what you’re eating, how you’re eating it and what time you’re eating it. The other important thing is to know what your family history is. You can prevent a lot by researching what your family’s diseases have.”

“Whoever states that eating healthy means you have to stay hungry is wrong,” said Adams. “It’s about enjoying your food and at the same time giving your body the right nutrients.”

Barth said that the food pantry came about after the organization was “approached by the New York City Food Assistance Collaborative a few years ago because there’s a high level of food insecurity in Sunset Park compared to the rest of the city. They said, ‘How do you feel about opening a food pantry?’”

Support for the venture was obtained from the United Way as well as through the city Department of Health’s Hunger Prevention and Nutrition Assistance Program.

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