Harvest Luncheon Showcases Urban Farms & Farmers Who Overcame Homelessness & Mental Health Challenges

Harvest Luncheon Showcases Urban Farms & Farmers  Who Overcame Homelessness & Mental Health Challenges

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September 16, 2022

Alexis Geslani, Marketing & Communications Director
[email protected] | O: 917.408.1667 | C: 646.315.3475

(Brooklyn, NY): On September 16, 2022, urban farmers who work on Services for the UnderServed’s (S:US) more than 70 urban farms and gardens hosted their annual Harvest Luncheon, a festive celebration of urban agriculture and the fall harvest. The event took place at S:US’ Marcy Hart Supportive Housing Residence in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn.

Since 2011, S:US has been at the forefront of the effort to provide access to urban agriculture for individuals and families who have experienced homelessness, poverty, behavioral health challenges, and disability. Often in neighborhoods where produce and healthy food options are scarce, S:US’ urban farms are located in the backyards and on the rooftops of its supportive housing and other residences. Through their work on the urban farms and gardens, every year over 600 participants gain employable skills, generate income, build self-esteem, and enjoy the nourishing benefits of fresh organic produce.

“Urban agriculture plays such an important role in our city. It provides another level of equity for our food system, whether it’s a community garden with dedicated volunteers, a school garden used for educational purposes, and plant science and nutrition and cooking or a place here at S:US where a community gathers,” said Annette Nielsen, Team Lead for the NYC Office of Food Systems and Resiliency, NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets.

The Harvest Luncheon took place at Marcy Hart, one of our supportive housing residences. Our supportive housing sites provide homes for adults in recovery from mental illness, adults with substance use challenges, people with intellectual/developmental disabilities, and adults living with HIV/AIDS. Supportive housing also provides medical, nursing, psychological, nutritional, and employment services.

“As we all know, New York City is experiencing unprecedented levels of food insecurity, with hunger impacting an estimated 1.5 million New Yorkers last year,” said S:US President & CEO Dr. Jorge R. Petit. “As an organization advancing social justice, S:US is at the forefront of this issue. Last year we served over 2 million meals in our programs and sites and we grew over 8,700  pounds of fresh produce through our Urban Farms program (equivalent to about 7,250 meals with an estimated market value of $43,500). It’s in working together with an integrated, holistic approach to healthcare and wellness that we can have the greatest impact on the health and wellness of our communities.”

The benefits of green spaces and access to healthy food has been well reported. Unfortunately, many New York City neighborhoods are cut off from nutritious food options and green spaces like parks or community farms. S:US’ urban farms provide a sustainable model for long-term community health and wellbeing in New York City.

“This supportive housing residence creates a space for community. It, along with our other residences, has served as oases for our residents, particularly during the challenges of COVID-19. They are spaces for education, learning and personal development. They are spaces for coming together with friends or with the broader NYC community, to connect and to celebrate,” said S:US Urban Farms Director Mike Hollis.

The urban farms and gardens are created and maintained through the work and dedication of the farmers, who each have their own stories of resilience and personal triumph over very challenging circumstances. The urban farms have played a pivotal role in giving farmers a therapeutic outlet, helping them to adopt healthier habits, and providing new career opportunities.

“I’ve been an urban farmer for a year and a half. I take care of one of our supportive housing sites in Brooklyn as well as our Clubhouse site, which I am member of… As a person living with mental illness, I have depression and anxiety. Being part of Urban Farms has allowed me to better understand what wellness means and has helped me greatly as a person,” said S:US Urban Farmer Carmelo Rodriguez.

Urban Farms has 70+ growing spaces in Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, and the Bronx, including eight community farms. And we’ve launched community fridges at some of our residences operated by people served by S:US, ensuring that they are continuously stocked due to an overwhelming response from the community and by new partnerships being developed as a direct result of our efforts. Learn more about S:US’ Urban Farms.


About Services for the UnderServed (S:US)

S:US plays a critical role in the health and well-being of more than 37,000 of New York City’s most vulnerable individuals and families each year, helping them overcome complex and challenging life circumstances. At S:US, we understand that for there to be long-term social change, we must invest in people and communities. We work to eliminate the root causes of inequity and poverty, while addressing people’s unique needs—needs that are compounded by the challenges people face due to a lack of opportunity. We give people hope, providing a path to a bright future for themselves, their families, and communities, a future that is not defined by challenges, but by opportunity for all. Learn more at sus.org.

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