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Upper West Side School Takes on Hunger Crisis During Pandemic

Students at Schechter Manhattan planted a pan-tree at 107th and Columbus from which people can take what they need and give what they can.

Students at a Jewish day school on the Upper West Side decided to tackle the problem of hunger during the pandemic.

So they planted a tree —- a pan-tree —- at 107th and Columbus and filled it with food. Science teacher Allison Levine of the Schechter Manhattan school said it’s aptly named.

“It’s at a community garden and we chose to put it on the perimeter versus inside because we wanted it to be available 24 hours a day,” she said. “The community garden allowed us to chain it to the fence so it’s sitting in a bucket of concrete on the sidewalk and the back of it is linked on there.”

Levine said there’s been no problem keeping it stocked.

“It’s in a pretty prominent area so people see it and they pass by it and maybe they bring stuff to fill it,” she said. “I know also a lot of the members of the community garden knew about this project and they were involved in allowing us to do it. They’re local to the neighborhood and I think that they often contribute as well.”

Levine said there’s also a QR code tied to the pantry.

“People can scan and it links to a form letting us know when you stop by the pantry is the pantry full, 3/4 full, half full, a quarter full or empty and people can also request things,” she said.

There’s a low tech way to do it too. If you’re walking by the pantry and see that it’s empty, just raise the little arm on the side, like a mailbox, and when the students check on it, they’ll know it needs a fill-up.

According to City Harvest, one in three children living in NYC lacks consistent access to healthy, nutritious food – a 64% increase over pre-pandemic figures.

To learn more about the Schechter Manhattan 107th Street Food Pan-TREE or to make a donation, please visit schechtermanhattan.org/campaigns/schechter-manhattan-chanukah-match.

Janice Kirkel is a lifelong award-winning journalist who has done everything from network newscasts to national and local sports reports to business newscasts to specialized reporting and editing in technical areas of business and finance such as bankruptcy, capital structure changes and reporting on the business of the investment business.