March 18


Food Pantry Versus Local Community

March 18, 2024

Vol. 104 No. 12

For years, Children of the Light Food Pantry, located at 1171 East 95th Street, has served the community as a place where hundreds of thousands of people can come for free food, no questions asked. However, while they provide food for residents and nonresidents of Canarsie, the work they are doing prevents those who live on East  95th Street, between Flatlands Avenue and Avenue J, to live comfortably.

The Canarsie Courier spoke with several homeowners on the mostly residential block who said that since the pantry opened, parking has been a nightmare, and they must plan the days and times they go out because they can’t find a parking spot.

Residents also say the streets haven’t been swept for years because the pantry blocks off the road on street cleaning days.  In addition to the pantry blocking off the roadway, the fence supply store at the corner of Flatlands Avenue and East 95th Street also takes up a majority of parking spaces and roadway – this leaves no space for the city to properly sweep the streets.

“The pantry gets deliveries at late night hours, and we can’t sleep,” one neighbor told the Canarsie Courier.  “There is no set time when deliveries happen, and the drivers block the roadway day and night to drop off the food.”

Residents say they’ve raised these issues at community meetings, but nothing has been done. Residents living on the south end of East 95th Street, closer to Avenue J, told the Canarsie Courier that sometimes pantry guests leave their empty boxes at the end of the street. They also urinate in front of their homes and lean against their fences.  The pantry does provide porta-potties, but it’s not clear at this time if they are being used.

Homeowners are worried that these occurrences will bring down property values and ultimately make their homes less appealing to potential buyers and investors. One of the weekend staff members informed the Canarsie Courier that the pantry does clean up after each service session and asks patrons not to loiter in front of residents’ homes. He said they feed 100,000 people each month, with people coming from New Jersey, The Bronx and Long Island to get food.

Across the country, there has been a spike in food pantry use by Americans, and that is no different for Canarsie and Brooklyn residents. The Robin Hood Foundation published findings from their “Poverty Tracker,” which revealed that since the pandemic, food pantry use increased  by 30% among U.S. citizens and 80% among non-U.S. citizens.

Food pantries are now a necessary part of many Brooklynites’ means to supplement their monthly groceries. Food insecurity is growing as inflation goes up, with grocery prices rising by 25%, according to the Washington Post. Here in Canarsie, small grocery stores have higher food prices than branded stores like Aldi, Trader Joe’s and Target.

The Canarsie Courier visited the pantry and spoke to clients from all parts of Brooklyn as well as Canarsie. Sheila, who lives in the East 100s, says she never has a problem getting food from the pantry and she comes every week; she just has to come early. Other Canarsie residents who wish to remain anonymous, but live in the East 90s, say they do get food, but the pantry staff are sometimes rude and treat them poorly. Overall, there were mixed reviews from pantry visitors; many felt they were doing a great job while others thought they could be doing better.

The Canarsie Courier reached out to Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso to see what the residents of East 95th Street could do to have more access to their roadway.  As of press time, the Courier did not receive a response.

There are several pantries in the area that need more awareness and could possibly help alleviate the massive number of people who go to the pantry on East 95th Street.

I.S. 285 Meyer Levin, located at 5809 Beverley Road, at Ralph Avenue, has a pantry open to the public, Monday to Friday, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Principal Hendrickson says the pantry was established in Fall 2023, and they need more people to be aware of the free service they are providing for the community.

P.S. 268, located at 133 East 53rd Street, has a pantry that is open on Tuesdays and Fridays at 2 p.m. The Canarsie Merchants Association also distributes free food every Wednesday, between 12 and 2 p.m., weather permitting, in front of Capital One Bank, located at 1425 Rockaway Parkway.

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