Meet Abby Burke, Hour Children Food Pantry Coordinator
For lifelong Queens resident Abby Burke, working as Community Outreach and Pantry Coordinator for Hour Children Food Pantry in Long Island City has enabled her to give back to her community. Abby joined Hour Children in November of 2011 as a part-time team member and went on to manage the pantry full-time in 2013.
The pantry is situated near the Queensbridge housing projects in Long Island City and is associated with Hour Children, a nonprofit organization helping formerly incarcerated women and their children. This past May alone, the pantry served 872 children, 1540 adults, and 211 seniors, and the numbers continue to grow.
In 2007, Just Food connected Hour Children Food Pantry with Hudson-based Farm at Miller’s Crossing through farm-to-pantry program Local Produce Link*, delivering fresh, seasonal vegetables weekly throughout the growing season.
“Even as the area has been gentrifying, access to fresh produce has still been pretty terrible. You don’t really see any nice quality produce here, so the clients are very excited to see all the fresh stuff,” Abby says.
According to Abby, Just Food’s farm-to-pantry program gives the pantry a stronger sense of community engagement through recipe sharing and cooking demonstrations. Also, the pantry’s Client Choice model enables clients to select the produce they want, offering clients more autonomy.
At Hour Children, Abby aspires to serve more than just food to her community. With a desire to engage pantry clients on a deeper level, Abby went through Just Food’s Community Chef training last year in order to teach clients fundamental culinary techniques and simple ways to prepare the vegetables they receive.
“I like to demonstrate cooking with vegetables that people aren’t too familiar with. I try to focus on sustainability and showing people no-waste recipes, how to use every part of the vegetable,” she says.
This season, Hour Children Food Pantry has recruited a volunteer to provide further nutritional education on seasonal vegetables and how to cook with them. Looking forward, Abby hopes to collaborate with the volunteer to provide additional cooking demonstrations and share even more recipes and tips.
“We’re so grateful for the community-building that comes from being part of Local Produce Link,” she says.
*Local Produce Link is a partnership between Just Food, United Way of NYC, 8 local family farms, and 48 food pantries throughout the five boroughs. As a program partner, Just Food links local farms to food pantries and provides cooking demonstrations and farm education for pantry staff, volunteers and clients. Local Produce Link is funded by the NYS Hunger Prevention and Nutrition Assistance Program.