Masbia is a nonprofit soup kitchen network and food pantry, everyday providing hot, nutritious meals for hundreds of New Yorkers in desperate need of food. Alongside our hot-meal program, we also give out bags of much needed groceries every week to those with not enough at home, through our weekend take-home package program. Masbia works to not only feed the hungry, but to provide free, wholesome, and delicious meals for people in a restaurant-style environment, with volunteer waiters serving each person with respect and dignity. We decided to interview Masbia because they are New York based and very involved with feeding the community and helping those in need make healthier choices by providing fresh produce as much as possible. Masbia is the only kosher certified soup kitchen in America that is open to the public daily.v

Some of the meals served at Masbia

Q. What services does Masbia Soup Kitchen provide?

A. We serve dinner every day, Sunday thru Thursday. We also serve a once a week package, where people can come get fruits, vegetables and basic food staples for their families. Most of the people we serve at our facilities are middle aged men because they are not able to cook for themselves and need a ready, hot dinner. A mother would rather pick up food and cook for her kids because people don’t like taking their kids to a soup kitchen. We end up feeding a lot of children through the packages. 

Q. What does a typical dinner look like?

A. The chef puts out a menu for the day. The menu has a few optional hot foods that are served to you- a chicken, a starch, a vegetable, and a vegetable soup. There are also other foods out that are self-serve, like a vegetable salad, fruit, compote, whole wheat bread, condiments, etc. 

A typical dinner

Q. Can you please explain how the pantry works?

A. There is a lot more choice in the pantry. People come in and come pick from different types of food. We get a lot of rescued food. It’s often whatever is in season- right now we are getting a lot of watermelon and radishes (summer). We get whatever fresh fruits and vegetables that we can. People come to the pantry and make choices about what foods they want to take home. Based on what they need for the week and the size of their family they can take what they like from each category. Usually an adult comes, and sometimes they will bring their children with them. In very sad cases, children will have to come alone. 

There is one religious Hassidic child whose mother is a single mother and needs to decide whether to leave her young kids alone at home to pick up the food, or send one of her older children to come pick out the food (the oldest is not even 13). These choices are so painful because he needs to pick foods based on weight since he needs to carry it all home. This is another dynamic that now has to weigh into his choices. 

Fresh produce displayed at Masbia

Q. Where do you get volunteers from?

A. We get volunteers from all over. We have a database of about 5000 volunteers. People are available at all different times. Our volunteers can be people who need community service hours for school, college community service hours, sentenced by a judge, and often just good people who want to give their time.

Q. Is there anything that you want people to know about your kitchen?

A. We have 3 locations (two in Brooklyn and one in Queens) and serve over 2 million meals a year. We are very much fresh vegetable based. We get a lot of donations, buy fruits and vegetables and try to cook with fresh fruits and vegetables. I do think that the more people are exposed to fruits and vegetables the more they’ll want to try it again. We want to make people have good memories of fruits and vegetables. People who live on a budget end up being scared of investing in fresh produce- it might be spoiled, kids might reject it, etc. We invest a lot in giving them the option of fresh produce and exposing them to it. The best way to get involved is financially or by volunteering. Check our website https://www.masbia.org.

A look inside the kitchen at Masbia

By Penina Langer, Seasonal Sammy App