In Times Square, Volunteers Pitch In to Feed Hungry Kids

Morgan Stanley volunteers (in blue T’s) join those from Food Bank for New York City (in orange) in packing up canned foods for distribution across the city in the middle of Times Square –– a location chosen to draw attention to the need for greater volunteerism on the issue of hunger in New York. | JACKSON CHEN

BY JACKSON CHEN | Hundreds of volunteers from Food Bank For New York City and Morgan Stanley converged at Times Square on June 1 to pack a variety of canned foods that will be distributed to the city’s food pantries, soup kitchens, and schools.

Out of the office on a sunny and warm Thursday, a large crowd of Morgan Stanley employees lined up at Times Square’s pedestrian plaza on Broadway and West 47th Streets. Though the beautiful weather offered a promising peek forward to the coming summer season, this time of year can be devastating for students who rely on the their schools for breakfast and lunch. According to the Food Bank, one in five school-aged children in the city 339,000 in total already rely on soup kitchens or food pantries for meals, but the situation is exacerbated during summer vacation when 700,000 public school students who receive free meals five days a week during the academic year face the possibility of going without.

That’s why organizations like Food Bank and its parent organization, Feeding America, scramble to ensure there are healthy meals for families by calling on their volunteer networks. Feeding up to a million kids, however, is a tall order for non-profit groups, so Food Bank enlists the help of Morgan Stanley, according to Francisco Tezén, the organization’s vice president of fundraising.

“We have a mighty team, but it’s a relatively small team,” Tezén said of the resources Food Bank has directly at its own disposal. “The number of hands we have available to repack, sort, and then get that food to the people who need it most in a timely way can only be powered by and supercharged by volunteers.”

In Times Square, volunteers donning Morgan Stanley-branded T-shirts formed an assembly line that created shipping boxes, filled them with an assortment of canned goods peaches, peas, peanut butter, and tuna, among them alongside brown rice and whole-wheat pasta, and sent them along labeled with a Food Bank sticker. The packages were then ready to ship off to the thousands of food pantries, soup kitchens, senior centers, and other facilities that are part of Food Bank’s network, according to Carol Schneider, the organization’s associate director of media relations.

While the Morgan Stanley volunteers came in waves, the organizers of the day’s efforts were also hoping to attract the attention of passersby and get them to participate, as well. According to Joan Steinberg, the global head of philanthropy at Morgan Stanley, Times Square was an ideal location for snaring the interest of the hundreds of thousands of pedestrians who throng the Crossroads of the World every day.

“I think a lot of New Yorkers think of summer as sneaking away to beaches and ice cream and hotdogs,” Steinberg said. “You don’t think about the fact that so many of our kids in our communities are actually not knowing where their next meal is going to come from.”

For Morgan Stanley, June 1 was the first day kick-off of its annual Global Volunteer Month. The financial services firm continued its support of Food Bank the following day by volunteering at its 90,000-square-foot warehouse in the Bronx.

“There really isn’t a public source that really makes up for what the schools are doing during the course of the year,” Steinberg said. “This is one of those moments when you really have to look at private sources, both corporate and charitable, to try to fill that gap. I think that’s why it’s so imperative that people understand it. Otherwise this just really slips through the cracks.”

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