Low funds force Bensonhurst food pantry to turn away families

Pantry Panic: Local elementary school students visit Reaching-Out’s food pantry in Bensonhurst, which is struggling to survive because of funding shortages.
Brooklyn Paper
Share on TwitterTweet
Share on Facebook

Don’t miss our updates:

A Bensonhurst pantry that’s been providing food to needy families for almost 30 years has been forced to turn away hungry Brooklynites in the midst of funding shortages, according to the group’s executive director.

“This is now the horror story,” said Tom Neve, a Bensonhurst native and retired Department of Sanitation worker who founded the Reaching-Out Community Services in 1989.

Located on New Utrecht Avenue between 77th and 78th streets, the volunteer-based nonprofit is a staple of southern Brooklyn, offering a range of social services and food to 9,800 families from across the borough. But while donations have plateaued in recent years, demand for Reaching-Out’s services has grown, forcing the organization to turn away needy families, according to Neve.

“We’ve gotten to the point where we just can’t operate,” he said.

Neve, who receives a annual stipend and employs two full-time workers, says the nonprofit receives city funding, but claims that money fails to cover even a quarter of its costs. Last year, the City Council funneled $30,000 into Reaching-Out’s budget, and in April, Councilman Justin Brannan (D–Bay Ridge) pledged $42,500. Neve said he would need $450,000 in order to run the food pantry smoothly.

Local religious organizations and charity groups have also donated small sums to Reaching-Out, but according to Neve, the organization does not serve enough families to attract the attention of large foundations, making sizable checks hard to come by. And with Reaching-Out’s $48,000 annual rent, Neve has grown more desperate.

“I asked everybody [for funding],” Neve said. “I’ve reached out to [Council members] almost to beg them. But I feel like it’s fallen on deaf ears.”

In addition to its food pantry, Reaching-Out offers tax assistance and homeless outreach to low-income residents, as well as help applying to government assistance programs. The nonprofit also hosts several annual events, including a backpack giveaway that offers kids back-to-school gear, a Thanksgiving turkey donation event, and a yuletide extravaganza called “Operation Christmas Smiles” that features live performances by Disney characters, arcade games, and meet-and-greets with Santa Claus.

But with Reaching Out’s threadbare budget, the group has been forced to reel in its social services — eliminating its senior programming entirely — and has considered slashing its annual parties. Neve worries that if money does not come in soon, Reaching-Out will have to start cutting registered families by September.

“I don’t want to tell people to their faces that they can’t come here,” Neve said. “I don’t know where else they can go.”

Neve began Reaching-Out more than 30 years ago from the back of his used van, where he handed out hot food and clothing to Bensonhurst residents. In 1996, the organization established a supermarket-style food pantry out of its building on Bath Avenue, which allowed families to shop for groceries on shelves rather than taking donations. After moving to a larger facility in 2007, demand for the organization’s services soared: between 2015 and 2019, the number of registered members grew by 50 percent.

“People don’t want to come here, but they don’t have a choice,” said Neve, who hopes to come across more funding in the coming months.

“There is the financial support out there,” Neve said, citing a number of local foundations that donate to nonprofits like his. “How could they ignore what’s happening?”

Reach reporter Rose Adams at or by calling (718) 260–8306.
Posted 12:00 am, July 9, 2019
Today’s news:
Share on TwitterTweet
Share on Facebook

Don’t miss our updates:

Reasonable discourse

Challenge says:
Challenge to all of the frequent posters of this page. Donate at least 10 bucks to this pantry.
July 9, 2019, 2:42 pm
Hillary from Prison says:
How about getting jobs and paying for your own food?
July 9, 2019, 2:56 pm
Hillary from Prison says:
How about I shut my fat mouth, get a job, and move out my mother's garage?
July 9, 2019, 3:17 pm
Hillary from Prison says:
??Check out the parasite upset at losing its free lunch. Get off the internet, get a job and buy your own food??
July 9, 2019, 3:36 pm
Hillary from Prison says:
??Check out the parasite upset at losing its free lunch. Get off the internet, get a job and buy your own food?? You fat loser. Are you still using your iphone to post racist comments? Dumba$$
July 9, 2019, 4:15 pm
Hillary from Prison says:
??Check out this lonely loser talking to itself??
July 9, 2019, 4:18 pm
Joe says:
Not easy raising a family do you support one?
July 9, 2019, 6:09 pm
Mindy from Gravesend says:
Is there a mailing address to be able to send a check? I live close by and never knew there was a local pantry there. I would love to help.
July 9, 2019, 7:02 pm
Henry says:
Go on their webpage.
July 9, 2019, 7:05 pm
Ro from Park Slope says:
Another paper reported that communities associated with the Roman Catholic Church of Saint Finbar, Bath Beach, coughed up $10,000. Now its time for [summer] schools, after-school programs [in the summer, too], houses of worship, civic leaders, and community-based organizations to step up to keep these doors open to all in need. It's not just a Thanksgiving thing, or Christmas thing, or Super Bowl Sunday thing. It's now. Help's needed now. Be a leader: Organize in your local community now.
July 9, 2019, 11:48 pm
Susan Rosenfeld from Sheepshead Bay says:
To "Hillary", most persons needing help from a food pantry are working but not earning enough for food and rent. These food pantries are wonderful and are helping deserving people. Mindy, you a really good person.
July 10, 2019, 12:02 pm
Susan Rosenfeld from Sheepshead Bay says:
To "Hillary", most persons needing help from a food pantry are working but not earning enough for both food and rent. These places are doing wonderful work. Mindy, you are a good person.
July 10, 2019, 12:05 pm

Comments closed.

First name
Last name
Your neighborhood
Email address
Daytime phone

Your letter must be signed and include all of the information requested above. (Only your name and neighborhood are published with the letter.) Letters should be as brief as possible; while they may discuss any topic of interest to our readers, priority will be given to letters that relate to stories covered by The Brooklyn Paper.

Letters will be edited at the sole discretion of the editor, may be published in whole or part in any media, and upon publication become the property of The Brooklyn Paper. The earlier in the week you send your letter, the better.

Keep it local!

Stay in touch with your community. Subscribe to our free newsletter: