Last Wednesday, they gathered in Greenpoint to officially unveil the Angelmobile, a fully-equipped RV with a $330,000 kitchen, food storage facilities, office space and outdoor awnings.
According to the North Brooklyn Neighbors Helping Neighbors Coalition, a newly-formed nonprofit organization backed bythe Episcopal Ministries of Long Island (EMLI), the mobile kitchen will serve up to 800 hot meals a day at various stops throughout the neighborhood.
“I continually urge congregations to be bold and creative in reaching beyond church walls to serve people in ways that matter, right where they are, as they are,” said Bishop Lawrence Provenzano of the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island. “This project does that, so I am very pleased to support it.”
The new coalition has enlisted the help of more than 65 religious, civic, social service and business groups. The founders of the partnership include Reverend John Merz, vicar of the Episcopal Church of the Ascension in Greenpoint, and community advocate Neil Sheehan, executive vice president of the substance abuse treatment agency Outreach.
“We looked at the neighborhood and saw gentrification causing friction among residents to the detriment of all,” Sheehan said. “Our goal is to engage people to work together across physical and social boundaries to serve and advocate for the needs of the most vulnerable.”
According to the North Brooklyn Angels website, Brooklyn has the highest rate of food insecurity in the city at 20 percent. More than 1.3 million New York City residents, or 16 percent, are food insecure.
The coalition also cites statistics that show that Greenpoint and Williamsburg has the highest child poverty rate in all of New York City. Roughly 55 percent of children in the district live below the poverty line, according to the organization.
Community leaders said they hope the traveling soup kitchen will play a role to address the hunger needs.
“With the Angelmobile, we’ll be able to enlist individuals to work shoulder to shoulder across North Brooklyn,” Sheehan said.
In addition to providing hot meals, the mobile van will provide social services including housing, substance abuse, employment and counseling services.
Funders for the project include the EMLI and Greenpoint business leaders Elaine and Norman Brodsky. The Angelmobile also has central heat and air conditioning, mobile Wi-Fi hotspot and a 72-inch video screen for advertising and storytelling.
“Over the last three years, from the inception of this idea over a McDonald's cup of coffee, after much community organizing and now to our impending launch, EMLI, Bishop Provenzano and the Brodsky's have been there with encourage and energy,” Merz said. “I guess you could say they have been like our own guardian angels.”