Make the Road New York
Program: Healthy Food & Community Change
Area of Work: Health
Grant Purpose: Healthy Communities Program
Make the Road New York (MRNY) is the largest participatory immigrant organization in New York, with over 24,000 members, aimed at building the power of immigrant and working class communities using four integrated strategies:
- community organizing
- policy innovation
- transformative education
- provision of legal and survival services
This model enables the organization to meet immediate needs, cultivate leadership among low-income people of color, design sophisticated and innovative policy solutions grounded in real-life experiences, and use deep base-building and community organizing to win policy transformations that impact millions. MRNY serves immigrant and working class communities across NYC and the suburbs from five community centers located in Bushwick, Brooklyn; Jackson Heights, Queens; Port Richmond, Staten Island; White Plains, Westchester; and Brentwood, Long Island.
Purpose: To support the Healthy Communities Program
Make the Road New York estimates that over 60% of their members lack health insurance, and many struggle with health problems such as diabetes and asthma that are caused or exacerbated by environmental factors.
The Illumination Fund’s support went towards MRNY’s Healthy Communities Program, which addresses the health consequences of the systemic inequalities experienced by working class and immigrant New Yorkers.
Active projects include:
- Food pantries – MRNY’s new high-volume food pantry in their Jackson Heights Center provides food to 3,000 individuals every month. They also serve an additional 2,000 individuals a month at their Bushwick pantry, which is one of MRNY’s oldest programs.
- Urban farm – Produce from MRNY’s farm in Bushwick is used for the pantry and towards nightly community meals. It also serves as a site for open educational workshops in Spanish and English, English-language classes, Bridge to Health and Community Health Worker classes, in addition to celebratory events and seasonal festivals.
- Youth training and employment – MRNY coordinates, supervises and pays youth workers at its Youthmarket in Ridgewood, Queens.
- Mental health support – MRNY’s network of Spanish-speaking mental health professionals provide free or low-cost services, in addition to connecting young people to counseling at its Bushwick community school, which serves about 1,300 students.
- SNAP enrollment – enrolled nearly 3,000 people from 2018 to 2019 for food stamps – mostly children of immigrant parents
In response to Covid-19, Make the Road NY took its programs remote in March 2020 and launched new projects to respond to extreme new needs resulting from the virus. This includes an emergency cash card distribution program, new food distribution centers in Staten Island and Westchester, a bilingual Covid hotline, and policy organizing campaigns to lift up solutions for immigrant workers who have been excluded from government relief.
Photo by Marilyn Humphries