Brooklyn Relief Kitchen looks to the future amid growing need • Brooklyn Paper
A Park Slope-based food bank sees no dip in demand as the pandemic drags on and charts ways to continue its efforts to feed Brooklynites in a post-COVID world.
The Brooklyn Relief Kitchen, a volunteer-run organization that was launched in June to help supply a local soup kitchen with hot meals, still cooks hundreds of meals a week, and demand has been steadily growing, according to reports. benefactors.
“We saw it explode,” said Andy Wandzilak, co-founder of the kitchen. “It’s not diminishing.”
The Emergency Kitchen operates out of the former First Reformed Church on Seventh Avenue and Carroll Street, where it prepares hot meals for a number of distribution sites across the borough, including the CHiPS soup kitchen in Gowanus, St. Mark’s Church in Flatbush, the Justice Project workers in Bensonhurst and the Camp Friendship Pantry in Park Slope.
Wandzilak, who co-owned slice store Two-Boots Brooklyn with his wife Piper, led a similar operation after Super Hurricane Sandy in 2012. Limits on gatherings prevented them from starting in the early days of the pandemic, but once the dust started to clear on the first wave, he and a growing team of volunteers got to work.
More than half of the food the emergency kitchen works with comes from donations from other community organizations and restaurants, including the People’s Organization CouncilBrooklyn Packers and Brooklyn Grange, the rooftop farm in Industry City.
On Wednesday, Wandzilak was preparing to head to seafood restaurant Gowanus Littleneck, where rainy weather the previous night had caused sales to plummet and led to an influx of unsold lobsters.
“Sometimes the CHiPS guys get lobster salad,” he said.
The kitchen’s efforts have primarily focused on preparing meals for CHiPS, for whom they currently provide over 600 meals a week and act as their largest supplier, but organizers quickly decided to expand into other areas. sites, as other pantries began to close during the pandemic due to a lack of funding. St. Marks Church, which once drew around 100 people a day in need of a meal, now serves more than 400 families a day, as does a Workers Justice Center pop-up in Bensonhurst Park.
“Now the pressure is on those who stay open,” Wandzilak said.
With limited closures in sections of South Brooklyn considered COVID-19 hotspots, Wandzilak says the kitchen has seen more food service workers out of work using their services.
“In these neighborhoods, the need is only growing,” he said.
With no end of the current crisis in sight, Wandzilak and his fellow volunteers are looking to become a certified nonprofit to continue their efforts indefinitely and are looking for a new space to work from November, when they can no longer work from the former Reformed Church.
“A lot of this just highlights the poverty that already exists in the city,” Wandzilak said. “A lot of these pantries were needed before COVID hit.”