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West Side Community Services and Friends of Night People Join Forces to Combat Hunger

You might recall that Provisions 139 Food Pantry held its grand opening this past August. Prior to that, a triumvirate came together to figure a better way to address mounting food insecurities throughout the city. It was Friends of Night People (FONP) that came through in a pinch, offering to ‘temporarily’ host the West Side food pantry until it could stand on its own two feet, in a dedicated space. It was essentially considered a transition period, when FONP took on the added food pantry role. That was six years ago.

I recently caught up with Crystal Selk, Executive Director of West Side Community Services, and Joseph S. Heary, Executive Director at FONP, to discuss their mutually beneficial relationship, and their strong bond with FeedMore WNY, the organization that provides the healthy food selections for the pantry.

One of the great benefits of opening Provisions 139 turned out to be freeing up valuable space at FONP, which was a temporary hosting site for the pantry. After all, FONP – primarily a soup kitchen – never intended to be a food pantry, but as the need arose, the organization rose to the occasion.

Per the latest arrangement, not only did FONP move the pantry and infrastructure (coolers etc.) to the refurbished 139 Vermont Street location, Heary and his team agreed to stay onboard in an advisory capacity for one year. This allowance would enable West Side Community Services (operator of Provisions 139 Food Pantry) to launch the enterprising community service with the proper tools and knowhow that it requires to be self-sustaining in the near future. In further support of the initiative, FeedMore provided grant money and products to ensure the pantry remains well-stocked for its growing customer base.

In a competitive market, where nonprofits are struggling to find donors, and support, these organizations have come together combining their best resources to do good work in an efficient and productive manner.

Provisions 139 at 139 Vermont Street

“It’s been a labor of love for all of us,” said Selk. “One of our goals is to eliminate the stigma of going to the food pantry. We are providing our customers with an opportunity to shop for the healthy foods that will feed their families. Provisions 139 is located in the heart of the West Side neighborhood. It’s a very welcoming space. There was once another food pantry in this neighborhood ten years ago, which was unfortunately unable to continue. FeedMore WNY recognized this need and approached Joe to take in the food pantry for the West Side. Not only was FONP feeding the homeless, they were running the food pantry in a space that was limited. Joe and I worked together to relocate the food pantry back to the West Side, where it originally belonged. The transition period will be between 18 and 24 months, before the pantry is fully located within Provisions 139. Incredibly, the pantry has gone from serving 30 households to over 100 households in a short period of time. It demonstrates the need in the community.”

“We recently served 3 individuals that were over 90 years old,” added Heary. “There are also younger families and immigrant families… the response has been a bit unexpected… the turnout has been very strong. It shows a community that is in need of emergency food. The timing was right, to address food insecurity on the West Side. And now that we have transitioned the pantry to a dedicated space, we at FONP will be better prepared to supply the homeless with other needs. We will be dedicating the newly freed up space to clothing rooms, clinics, etc. We’re trying to get everything in place by early 2022.”

Heary reminded me that there were additional neighborhood groups and organizations that were contributing to the success of Provisions 139. D’Youville’s D’Lish Kitchen, for example, which helps to provide fresh produce. And the Providence Farm Collective that sources culturally responsive foods.

Provisions 139 is just one of a number of heralded success stories when it comes to addressing food insecurities in the city. Taking a look at FeedMore’s “Pantry Locator,” it’s astounding the number of pantry services that are offered to those in need. But there’s always room for enhanced services, additional volunteers… and stepped up donations, especially with winter approaching the holidays drawing near.

At this time, holiday donations can be made at 394 Hudson Street (home of FONP), including warm clothing (hats, gloves, etc.) and holiday comfort food (fresh produce, turkeys, box items – think Thanksgiving offerings). FONP volunteers will distribute the donations as they arrive.

New hours of operation at Provisions 139 (139 Vermont St.) are Mondays, 11:30 am – 2:30 pm and Wednesdays, 12:00 pm – 4:00 pm.

For community members interested in supporting Provisions 139 with financial or in-kind gifts, they are asked to contact West Side Community Services at 716-884-6616. 

FeedMore WNY is currently holding a wreath and centerpiece sale, as well as a Christkindlmarkt and Food Drive at Hofbrauhaus Buffalo in December.

Written by queenseyes


Newell Nussbaumer is 'queenseyes' - Eyes of the Queen City and Founder of Buffalo Rising. Co-founder Elmwood Avenue Festival of the Arts. Co-founder Powder Keg Festival that built the world's largest ice maze (Guinness Book of World Records). Instigator behind Emerald Beach at the Erie Basin Marina. Co-created Flurrious! winter festival. Co-creator of Rusty Chain Beer. Instigator behind Saturday Artisan Market (SAM) at Canalside, Buffalo Porchfest, and Paint vs. Paint. Founder of The Peddler retro and vintage market on Elmwood. Instigator behind Liberty Hound @ Canalside. Throws The Witches Ball at Statler City, the Hertel Alley Street Art Festival, and The Flutterby Festival.

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