The Birth of Staten Island Feeds It Forward
It is no secret that COVID-19 has caused unprecedented food insecurity. So many people have found themselves suddenly unemployed and making choices between buying groceries or paying bills. While food drives are helpful and needed, they are transient by nature, and supplies are never guaranteed.
Five women from Staten Island have come up with their own solution to Staten Island’s food insecurity problem. The beauty of their idea is that it is ongoing, always in motion, and benefits everyone involved. This is an introduction to one of Staten Island’s newest humanitarian projects, Staten Island Feeds it Forward.
Mariana Howard has been a resident of Staten Island for 15 years. She and her husband purchased a house in New Orleans, LA in 2012 and split their time between the two locations for 7 years. Throughout the pandemic, she has remained connected to the New Orleans community. Through these connections, she learned of a New Orleans pizzeria’s solution to the pandemic-related food insecurity.
The pizzeria had begun a Pay It Forward program: A customer can add the price of an extra slice to their order. The receipts for the prepaid slices are placed on a wall. Anyone who needs a slice but might not be able to pay can take a receipt from the wall and bring it to the register. They get their pizza with no questions asked and the pizzeria doesn’t lose any money.
The pizzeria’s Pay It Forward program struck Mariana because of the discretion it afforded. This method can keep a person’s dignity intact while satisfying their need for sustenance.
Thus, the tiny seed of Staten Island Feeds It Forward was planted in Mariana’s mind. Using Facebook as a resource, she found a group of like-minded local people and asked if anyone was interested in helping her get this idea off the ground locally. Soon, Mary Ellen Smith, Heather Browand, Carolyn Adinolfi, and Patricia Clay joined her, each bringing their own talents to the grassroots project. The team soon partnered with a local 501c non-profit organization, that agreed to help execute the final part of the Feeds It Forward process.
How It Works:
- The core team of Staten Island Feeds it Forward reaches out to local quick-serve eateries to participate in the program and provides a sign for the restaurant to place by the register.
- Customers can choose to buy an additional item from the eatery’s menu.
- The pre-paid food item is printed on a receipt, which is then collected by members of SI Feeds It Forward.
- SI Feeds It Forward’s non-profit partner collects the receipts.
- The 501c non-profit then distributes the receipts to people in need, who can bring the receipt back to the restaurant when they are ready to claim their food or hot beverage.
Why This Works
Restaurants and eateries are struggling under COVID-19 restrictions. This project will generate additional revenue for the restaurant while also helping to curb food insecurity during these unexpected times.
How You Can Help
- Staten Island Feeds it Forward is looking for volunteers to help with a variety of jobs.
- If you are a restaurant and want to join the Feeds It Forward partnership, you can reach out to them here.
- Restaurant patrons should look for the Feeds It Forward sign at local quick-serve eateries to contribute a hot bite to someone who could use it.
It is the work of out-of-the-box thinkers and humanitarians who move our society forward with compassion and kindness. It is something we need more of during these trying times and Staten Island Community News is deeply grateful to these women for dedicating their free time to such an important project.