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July 6, 2011 / joyful plate

West Side Campaign Against Hunger

Last year when I founded joyful plate I started volunteering as a brand strategist and fundraiser for the West Side Campaign Against Hunger (WSCAH), a supermarket-style food pantry across the street from my office on W 86th in NYC. It’s a progressive program that empowers customers to be self-sufficient -allowing them to choose their own groceries and giving them social services like health insurance, food stamps and job training. Check out this innovative video about their story. West Side Campaign Against Hunger Video or

WSCAH is helping more people than ever before in its 32-year history. They ended the fiscal year last week with a 17% increase in people turning to them—a 48% increase since the start of the recession. WSCAH provides about one hundred ten thousand low-income New Yorkers with food for about one million meals. Their social workers will help the heads of over 4,000 households who never had to turn to emergency food help before.

This winter, demand was so high that WSCAH could no longer afford to keep enough food on its shelves. Last month, I attended a “Fill Our Shelves” luncheon with other members like my new friends Diane Velletri of  ChowCiaoDesign and Ben Schmerler of  First Press Pr.

The luncheon raised enough money to buy food for the pantry for a week. We heard from a formerly incarcerated customer who told the audience how hopeless he was to build a new life until WSCAH’s counselors took the time to listen and guide him on the road to employment. We also heard about the importance of contacting your congressional representative to oppose cuts to federal nutrition support programs, SNAP (food stamps) and the Emergency Food and Shelter Program.

The guests at the event enjoyed a delicious meal prepared by Chef/Instructor Mark D’Alessandro and his customer chef class. Special thanks to Shake Shack for dessert; Joe: the Art of Coffee; and wholesaler HYCO for donating the food.

WSCAH receives food donations from all kinds of sources including consumer packaged goods companies. If your company would like to help fill WSCAH’s shelves on a regular base, please contact Michelle Lawton at or Stewart Desmond, Director of Development West Side Campaign Against Hunger at Thank you.



Leave a Comment
  1. lisa / Jul 7 2011 12:04 am

    Great blog, MIchelle…and so inspiring to see you involved with WSCAH. Bravo!

    • michelle lawton / Jul 7 2011 12:59 am

      Thanks, fellow upper west sider (always).

  2. Debbie Helpinghand / Nov 15 2011 12:05 pm

    Great post – your description of the challenges faced by WSCAH shares a lot with what I’ve seen facing many food pantries and banks across the country. Thanks for drawing attention to this problem in a specific way that hopefully gets people to think about the essential work of non-profits in their neighborhoods.

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