Food Pantry/Soup Kitchen Best Practices

Ending Hunger Lifts Us All.jpg

Because wages are too low and the safety net is inadequate, about one million New Yorkers struggle against hunger. Supplementing safety net programs with private charities – even when they get government food and funding – is no simple task. When you decide to help feed hungry people, you take on heavy issues and responsibilities. On top of acquiring the resources and organizational support to meet the immediate needs in your community, you may also acquire the knowledge that charity is not the long-run solution to the hunger problem. It is our opinion that government policy reform is the only long-term solution to our country’s hunger program. And despite the need for broader political, economic, and societal reform, thousands of religious groups and nonprofits must help meet the immediate need, which they do through emergency food programs, abbreviated in this publication as ‘EFPs.’

An EFP is any program that provides food to a general, low-income population. EFPs include hot meal and pantry programs (commonly known as soup kitchens, food pantries, and brown bag programs). They are sometimes referred to as Community Food Programs, Feeding Agencies, Food Programs, Emergency Food Relief Organizations, and Social Service Agencies. For the sake of simplicity and consistency, we will use “Pantry” or “Kitchen” to refer to individual programs. We do not generally include programs that serve only senior citizens, residents of a particular shelter, or program in our definition of EFPs, although these programs provide vital services.

Given limited resources and the prevalence of so many EFPS in New York City, we generally discourage people from starting new ones, unless you are in a rare neighborhood that does not have existing programs. That is why the main purpose of our Best Practices Guide is to document this wealth of knowledge existing agencies have to take action and help some of New York’s most vulnerable.  

Click here to read the full guide: