As many of you are already aware, June 13 marked the Bed-Stuy Campaign Against Hunger’s Fourth Annual Planter Awards. BSCAH members, volunteers and esteemed guests gathered at Williamsburg’s Giando on the Water for an evening of food, drink and discussion about food justice and BSCAH’s role in reducing hunger in Brooklyn and the wider New York area. Looking out over the scenic harbor in the shade of the Williamsburg Bridge, Giando was the ideal venue to bring together individuals from diverse backgrounds united by a passion for the fight against hunger.
The event was emceed by Fox 5 news anchor Antwan Lewis, who lightened up the serious tone of the evening with occasional wisecracks about the storm brewing outside during the evening. But the weather could not put a damper on the event, which was replete with rousing speeches about food justice and the work the Bed-Stuy Campaign Against Hunger towards ending hunger and improving health in our community.
Opening remarks were delivered by New York City Council member of the 41st district, the Hon. Darlene Mealy and Superstorm Sandy Far Rockaway program coordinator for BSCAH Yvonne Rankine.
Rev. Dr. Melony Samuels, CEO and founder of the Bed-Stuy Campaign Against Hunger, kept up the momentum of the opening remarks in her urgent, impassioned speech about the work the foundation has done since its inception. Starting from its humble roots in a church basement and evolving into a fully-stocked, supermarket-style food pantry, social service provider, and community garden, BSCAH has become one of the foremost food justice organizations in the area. Just this year, BSCAH distributed over 1.8 million meals from the client-choice pantry in Bed-Stuy and mobile pantry sites in Far Rockaway and Coney Island. It provided sustenance to over 49,000 adults, 47,000 children and 11,000 seniors. Staggering numbers added weight to Dr. Samuels’s message that we still have far to go to reach the foundation’s ultimate goal of eliminating hunger throughout New York City.
Celebrity chef Madison Cowan gave a heartfelt and entirely unscripted speech about his own harrowing past. Mr. Cowan was homeless for many years in Paris and New York, and fought a daily struggle to feed himself and his family. But he was able to rise above these trials, which taught him valuable lessons about nutrition and made him a better chef, he said. Mr. Cowan is a three-time winner of Chopped and an Iron Chef. In addition to his work as a chef and restaurateur, is a full-time dad who has been strongly active in a variety of food justice and health campaigns across the country.
Thanks to a group of energetic and capable volunteers from the BSCAH Green Teens, the balloon raffle was a crowd favorite and a wild success. Guests of the Planter Awards purchased orange balloons in place of raffle tickets, which they tied around their chairs to create a vibrant canopy throughout the dining room. The balloons then served as a marker at the end of the night for each lucky person to receive an envelope containing a prize certificate. A prize was guaranteed with every balloon, ranging from a Bed-Stuy Campaign Against Hunger beehive named in the winner’s honor, to a stay at a luxurious Manhattan hotel, to the opportunity to participate in a BSCAH volunteer project, to a three-month membership at Brooklyn Boulders. The mystery and fun of the balloon raffle kept guests on their toes and offered a way for them to connect with the dedicated volunteers who made the night possible.
The auction also featured a selection of very special items available for immediate purchase. The pieces that remain from that auction will be posted on Charity Buzz, an online auction website, later this month. There, you can bid on such exciting items as a publishing consultation with literary agent and BSCAH board member Noah Lukeman; a limited-edition, high-gloss photo of Mariano Rivera’s historic last pitch by Connecticut-based photographer Bill Keane; a pair of tickets to the hit Broadway production Newsies and a special backstage visit; and a chance to see the Melissa Harris-Perry Show live and even meet the host herself.
But while the Planter Awards may have just passed, the fight against hunger continues. The BSCAH pantry and programs will also continue until that fight has been won. Since its inception in 2008, our urban garden has continued to thrive and grow, and now encompasses nearly 11,000 square feet. It offers a venue for children to learn about the importance of fresh, local food through the Healthy BLOOMers and Stomp Out Obesity programs, and is cultivated by the Green Teens throughout the growing season. The last two sessions of Stomp Out Obesity were held at neighborhood schools, bringing knowledge about nutrition, fitness and gardening to an even greater adolescent audience. The summer sessions of Healthy BLOOMers are just about to begin, giving parents a fun and healthy choice for their young children now that the school year has drawn to a close. Fifteen seniors just graduated from the 12-week Health 360 program, which improves wellness among seniors suffering from various ailments such as diabetes and hypertension, through lessons they can apply to their lives outside of class. Another group will begin in just a few weeks.
For more information on how you can support BSCAH, either by donating or volunteering, please explore our website further or call 718-773-3551.