A generation ago, Church of the Heavenly Rest was a leader in shaping New York City’s response to hunger. As life in the city changed in the 1970’s and more people needed regular access to food, our parish helped to found what was originally known as the Yorkville Common Pantry; we also launched a program of serving holiday meals at the church. Today, the city has a comprehensive network spanning more than 1,200 soup kitchens and food pantries across the five boroughs. Looking at this big picture, we ask ourselves: How do those in need experience hunger today, and how can we have the most meaningful impact?
After extensive exploration, discussion, and research, we are reframing our hunger ministries as the nourishment of body, mind, and soul. This means our programs are
- Responsive to the realities of the needy today.
- Focused on disrupting the cycle of poverty through education about healthier choices.
- Connecting and weaving other programs together so all of our efforts can be leveraged to greater levels.
Breaking bread with others can be the access point to broader ministry. Each of our programs emphasizes being with others as we nourish the whole person.
Please join us in any of the following outreach opportunities. If you have questions or would like to register, please send your information to email@example.com.
Grace-to-Go meal kits: Last fall, Heavenly Rest developed its first shelf-stable, ready-to-cook, simple-to-prepare, non-perishable meals to distribute to some of our Harlem partners (listed below). Our Grace-to-Go boxes are meant to address episodic hunger, giving those in need an option when food pantries are not open and their other hunger coping strategies have been exhausted. We packed nearly 1,000 meals on our Outreach Service Day in October and plan to continue to measure, pack, and distribute meal kits on monthly service days. The meals were distributed to the following partners:
- P.S. 30
- The NYCHA housing project Fred Samuel Houses
- Hour Children
- The Children’s Village
- Harlem Grown
P.S. 30 Snack and Storytime:
Heavenly Rest initiated this project with our outreach partner P.S. 30, an elementary school in East Harlem. Childhood hunger has far-reaching negative consequences, including compromising learning effectiveness during school hours. Pairs of CHR volunteers go each Friday to distribute a healthy snack and read a story to one class. Part of the snack presentation includes drawing attention to what is healthy about that selection. The project is presently focused on Pre-K to 2nd grade. CHR volunteers, P.S. 30 students, and teachers enjoy this program immensely and we plan to expand the effort in 2017.
Breaking Bread Together
Breaking bread together is fundamental to the Christian mission of reconciliation. Through food, we seek to deepen our relationship with our partners and effect long-term positive change.
In 2016, our new kitchen was immediately put to use to prepare freshly baked cookies to add to 1,000 meal bags for families at P.S. 30 and anyone who came to the Church on Thanksgiving Day. Distributing “loaves and fishes” was a treat for all. We also hosted Hudson Link, one of our Prison and Reentry Ministry partners, for a celebration and special Christmas meal. Hudson Link families and parishioners rejoiced in this annual welcoming home event on Sunday, December 18.
We are also in the process of developing culinary programs that enable us to utilize our kitchen in conjunction with our community outreach partners to cook, teach, learn, and nourish together.
Another project in development is our work with Harlem Grown, an urban farming project located in public schools that mentors children and their families by teaching them how to grow and use healthy produce. Parishioners will be visiting the farms on a regular basis to garden, prepare foods, and share art and music projects with the children. Church of the Heavenly Rest is committed to disrupting cycles of poverty with solutions that work to change lives.