Published in The Rye Record
By Rachel Breinin
Bread of Life, a Rye-based food rescue organization, used to rely on supermarkets to provide them with much-needed food for food pantries, homeless shelters and soup kitchens. Suddenly in mid-March the grocery store shelves were bare as families loaded up their carts.
“Managers who used to give us tons of food at the end of the day now told us, ‘Sorry we don’t have food for you today,’” said Dr. Sherri Falco, who co-founded the Bread of Life with her husband, Pastor Pasquale Falco in 2013. “An unintended consequence of all the food hoarding was that we no longer had an important food source for families who were hurting the most,” said Falco. “ People who were living on the edge before this were pushed over it, and we were struggling to get them food when they needed it the most. We had to reinvent ourselves literally overnight.”
Sue Wexler, Director of Community Outreach for Bread of Life, posted an urgent plea for help on the Rye Moms Facebook page on March 13 about their need and asking for donations of non-perishable items. The response was “amazing” said Wexler, “The floodgates opened up and the whole community came together helping to fill our needs that were greater than ever.”
Danielle Rehfeld Colen partnered with two other Rye moms, Hayley Nivelle and Loralynn Vayo Katsikas, to launch a five-week neighborhood food drive collecting funds to purchase provisions from Baldor Foods and Pound Ridge Organics, a co-op of local farms. On top of that, Baldor has generously donated additional produce including cases of broccoli, cauliflower and 160 lbs. of bananas. When the food arrives in bulk packages, Colen, Nivelle and Katsikas enlist their families and friends to break down the containers and repackage the food into family-sized containers. Through their efforts, an Amish farmer from Upstate New York delivered a truckload of 180 gallons of fresh-from-the-farm milk. The farmer was grateful for the business and the recipients of the milk were equally happy to receive his bounty. "This amazing team of Rye Moms is not only helping to feed hungry Westchester residents fresh, nutritious food,” stated Wexler, “But they are also supporting small local farms who are struggling during this time.”
Prior to Covid 19, Bread of Life served 400 families at its on-site food pantry in Rye every two weeks, now they provide food for 700 families (and growing). Many of the families come from the neighboring communities of Port Chester and Harrison, but there are also Rye families who get food. People are now unemployed, and the safety net is not there for many. Bread of Life also continues to provide food to food pantries, shelters and soup kitchens throughout Southern Westchester including KingsPort Senior Center and Don Bosco in Port Chester.
Christ’s Church, Rye Community Synagogue, Rye Presbyterian Church and Trinity Church in Greenwich became actively involved by sponsoring food drives and reaching out to their congregants asking them to donate food and much-needed finances to Bread of Life. “Their level of commitment was astonishing with clergy making heartfelt appeals to their members to setting up food bins for drop offs and then personally dropping off the food,” said Wexler.
Rye boutiques that were deeply affected by being closed acted magnanimously and selflessly. Lola’s owner, Caroline Schneider, donated generously to the organization including giving 10% of the proceeds from her Mother’s Day promotion. In addition, she contributed boxes of clothes to bring to the homeless shelters that Bread of Life services. Angela Guitard of Angela’s and her sister-in-law, a talented seamstress, made fashionable masks and donated 100% of the proceeds to them. The masks immediately sold out, and Angela’s replenished the stock. “When their businesses are hurting, Caroline and Angela demonstrated the true spirit of kindness and big-heartedness,” said Wexler.
A few long-time volunteers have stepped up their efforts to astonishing levels. Since March 15, Eniko Keleman has been at every one of the on-site food pantry days tirelessly stocking the shelves, handing out food in the freezing rain! In addition she and others are picking up food from Goldberg's Rockin Bagels, Valtori Al Dente, and Dig Inn, long-time contributors to Bread of Life. Every week, Katie Vernace includes food for Bread of Life in her Fresh Direct order and then drops off cases of Chobani yogurt and fresh fruit along with milk and eggs. “Before ordering, Katie checks in with us to see what our food needs are,” said Wexler.
The Rye Chinese American Community and Molly Howson donated masks and gloves to keep volunteers safe. The Sew Happy Rye Mask project also reached out to provide masks to some of the vulnerable populations the organization serves. “ Much-needed monetary donations came through the Love Rye
initiative created by Lisa Hogan, Karen Napoli Schulz and Maria Delgado Kacha. Susan Fraiser has coordinated a herculean effort of soliciting financial donations from Rye families in order to purchase trays of food from local restaurants for weekly donations to the Bread of Life. “This wonderful initiative helps keep our local restaurants in business and brings some much needed prepared food to the shelters we support” said Wexler
“I’ve never seen such outpouring of love and compassion to help others in these difficult times,” said Falco. “It would be impossible to list all of the names of everyone who has played a part in helping us feed the hungry in our community. Therefore, we honor all of the unsung heroes who have picked up or delivered food or donated financially so we can continue to operate. Their contributions are invaluable. We thank God for all of them.”
Food donations may be dropped off at 65 Orchard Avenue in Rye. Financial donations may be made via Venmo Bread Life @Bread-of-Life or www.GivingTreeGlobal.org.
THANK YOU. WE COULD NOT DO THIS WITHOUT YOU