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Vision Urbana launches massive turkey drive for NYCHA families on Lower East Side

On Nov. 20, Vision Urbana kicked off what it called the largest Thanksgiving turkey distribution on the Lower East Side, delivering delicious holiday birds to more than 1,500 families living in local New York City Housing Authority developments.

The Vision Urbana Pantry Express Program brought turkeys directly to its roster of hundreds of older adults in need. In addition, through the program’s network of local tenant associations, hundreds more turkeys will be delivered to residents. The turkey drive was made possible through generous donations from Grace and Kim Lee, the Hispanic Federation and the Foodbank for New York City.

Vision Urbana provides home-delivered pantry to nearly 2,000 families every week, including at an on-site Monday pantry between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. (Courtesy Vision Urbana)
Maria Scarfo, Ph.D., Vision Urbana’s NORC program director, right, providing one of her seniors with a turkey. NORC stands for “Naturally Occurring Retirement Community.” (Courtesy Vision Urbana)

To meet the challenge of the coronavirus pandemic starting in March 2020, Vision Urbana created an ambitious home-delivered pantry model, Pantry Express. This expanded the organization’s established traditional pantry program at Seward Park Extension to provide home-delivered groceries, fresh produce and balanced meals to more than 2,000 residents every week.

Vision Urban’s pantry and Pantry Express model are key parts of its food-security initiatives, aiming to ensure that the community’s seniors, families and individuals in need whose lives have been impacted by the pandemic consistently receive healthy pantry provisions, fresh produce and vegetables and nutritious meals.

Volunteers are welcome every Monday between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. and every Tuesday between 8:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. at 65 Norfolk St.(Courtesy Vision Urbana)
Officer Manny of the 13th Precinct delivering turkeys and chickens to the NYCHA Rutgers Tenant Association on the Lower East Side. (Courtesy Vision Urbana)

“Vision Urbana remains on the forefront of food security here on the Lower East Side,” said Eric Diaz, the organization’s executive director. “Our weekly home deliveries and fresh produce distribution within NYCHA and Section 8 subsidized housing, as well as our weekly stocking of local community fridges and monthly senior box grocery deliveries, have had a significant impact on thousands of residents over the last year. This Thanksgiving, we are delighted to continue the tradition of providing turkeys to hundreds of families who are struggling.”


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PIX 11 also did a segment on Vision Urbana’s distribution program.

“Every family deserves a turkey for Thanksgiving,” said Grace Lee, a community advocate and donor. “We are excited to be joining the volunteers in delivering these turkeys to people’s doors today and are so grateful to Vision Urbana for providing the infrastructure and people power to make this happen. They are doing extraordinary work for the Lower East Side.”

Vision Urbana Pantry Express mobilizes volunteers to bring needed pantry into NYCHA developments on the Lower East Side and is sustained by the Foodbank for NYC, United Way of New York City and generous contributions from local donors. (Courtesy Vision Urbana)
Claudia Malpeli, the director of Vision Urbana’s Pantry and Food Security Initiative, left, along with Rodney Washington, the organization’s pantry site coordinator, reviewed schedules for turkey home deliveries and ground-floor distribution to tenant associations. (Courtesy Vision Urbana)

“Hispanic Federation strongly believes that the right to adequate food is a human right. Families should never have to struggle to put food on the table,” said Frankie Miranda, president and C.E.O. of the Hispanic Federation. “I applaud Vision Urbana for their work ensuring families have a healthy and nutritious meal during the holidays. Their local community engagement is inspiring and helps to empower our communities by bringing people closer together.”

“Vision Urbana is second to none,” said Rabbi Josh Stanton, the rabbi of East End Temple in Gramercy, who volunteers every week with Vision Urbana’s pantry. “East End Temple is proud to collaborate in its sacred work to feed the hungry.”

Pantry Director Claudia Malpeli provided directives to New York Cares volunteers, as she does every Saturday for the Vision Urbana Silver Service Nutrition Program, a monthly food-security initiative in partnership with Foodbank for New York City, which provides 1,000 boxes of groceries to Lower East Side seniors who fall within the federal poverty level. (Courtesy Vision Urbana)

“In NYCHA, we have many residents who have been struggling to make ends meet even before the pandemic,” said Aixa Torres, president of the Alfred E. Smith Houses Tenants Association. “It is both a great joy and great relief to see these families enjoy a Thanksgiving meal that will not strain their budgets. We are grateful for the generosity of Vision Urbana, Grace and Kim Lee and our neighbors in Lower Manhattan.”

“The power of a community is their power to organize, and this community has come out for each other time and again,” said Christopher Marte, the District 1 councilmember-elect.

“There is so much systemic inequity in this city that we as elected leaders must fix,” Marte said. “But the work of Vision Urbana and their donors and volunteers will ensure that a thousand families have a wonderful Thanksgiving meal.”

“The Downtown Independent Democrats were excited to join the turkey drive as volunteers today,” said Richard Corman, the political club’s president. “We believe political organizations shouldn’t just turn off after an election, and that there are many ways to serve a community outside of working on campaigns. About a dozen of our members volunteered to deliver turkeys today, and we will definitely be back next year.”

“With more than 1 million New York City residents facing food insecurity and turkey prices up 20 percent this year, there is a deep need in the community for a Thanksgiving drive of this scale,” said Lower East Side artist Jonathan Gardenhire, who also serves as a Democratic district leader for Assembly District 65 Part B and was the youngest person to ever serve on a NYCHA resident board. “The NYCHA buildings in the Lower East Side are home to a vibrant and powerful but underserved community, and I am glad the Thanksgiving drive can help shine light on the challenges they face.”

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