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The Science Survey

Unmatched Dedication: A Profile of St. Brendan’s Food Pantry

Behind the hills and noise of the Bronx, lies a small food pantry that brings service and purpose to a community.
For over one hundred years, St. Brendan continues to serve the largely Black and Hispanic community in the Norwood Section of the Bronx. Photo Credit: Hugo L. González, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons
For over one hundred years, St. Brendan continues to serve the largely Black and Hispanic community in the Norwood Section of the Bronx. Photo Credit: Hugo L. González, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Six a.m.

The alarm goes off, a blaring sound to start my day. I roll out of bed, leaving the comforting warmth of my covers, yawn loudly, and stretch my arms.

I pull myself out of bed and over to the bathroom to wash my face. As the cold water hits my skin, I wonder about the experiences awaiting me today. I make my way to the kitchen, flick the light on, and fill the kettle pot with water before placing it on the stove. I turn the heat up, wait for the water to boil, and chug some coffee, and then step out of the door.

You may think this is my daily routine for school, but today is Saturday.

I breathe in the fresh, chilly morning air as I begin walking down Perry Avenue.

As I make my way across the block, I recognize an older gentleman who is always walking two dogs…or rather his two pitbulls are always walking him.

Through the thick morning fog, I see a large line of people wrapping around St. Brendan’s Church, many who appear to be shivering in the cold morning wind. Some have children, cuddled against their parents, taking shelter from the cold. The line looks longer than usual today. I walk a little faster, past the upper church and the new charter school, and towards the three story brick building where the line ends.

I open the large red door and make my way towards the large room where all of the servers are.

The first person I see is Angel, the current head of the food pantry. He shakes my hand before I make my way inside.

I see Vicky and Cora, packing food into large plastic bags, and Mark beginning the long and tedious process of depositing every box from which the food came outside.

I feel at home here. I hear the familiar hum of the freezer, which stores the frozen goods we will distribute. There are no worries and no stress, just a room filled with people each committed to their respective tasks.

We all gather in a small room with white walls. This room used to be the meeting place of the St. Brendan’s Holy Name Society, an organization dedicated to providing a spiritual path for young men in the parish. Now, the food pantry has taken its place, as the church organization that brings spiritual life to members of the parish (a church community).

Vicky leads us in prayer, as we recite the “Our Father” and “Hail Mary” in Spanish, and “The Glory Be” in English. She’s been around the parish for a long time, often serving as lector at morning mass on Sundays. Vicky is a middle aged woman. She grew up in a single parent household that was often in need.

In fact, it was food pantries just like this where she would frequently receive food that helped to sustain her and her mother. One week she told me the story of the first time she went to a food pantry, reminiscing about the excitement she felt upon receiving the food and how it inspired her current service.

Her story serves as a testimony to how acts of service and kindness can become the catalyst for more kindness and almsgiving. It creates an upward spiral of compassion and service, which can help to revive and unite a community.

With grace and humility, my fellow volunteers and I ask St. Brendan to pray for us and with that, the goings of the food pantry are officially underway.

I immediately head outside and make my way to the front of the line.

St. Brendan’s primarily serves the older Hispanic community in Williamsbridge, a neighborhood located in the north-central portion of the Beronx. However, as I stand outside looking at the long line of people, I see people of different religions, backgrounds, and ages. The St. Brendan’s Food Pantry is alive and ready to serve each and every one of them.

I begin to let people into the small brick building. They’ll enter through the large red door, walk down a short hallway, and enter the small, white room stocked with food galore.

I greet people as they walk in, and I receive the usual look of confusion. I can almost read their minds as if they are thinking, “Wow, a teenager is serving in the pantry,” given that I am the only high school student present. Nonetheless, the service continues.

My youth is useful to the pantry, as I am assigned the jobs that require me to run back and forth constantly. As folks with canes or wheelchairs begin to arrive, I run into the building, obtain the food, and then bring it to the people. The running can get exhausting, especially when the cycle is repeated 20 times within a span of 30 minutes. But, as I bring the food down the steps, and place it in their cart, their faces are full of life and gratitude.

However, when you look into their eyes, an even more beautiful picture is painted. Beneath the hardship is hope for prosperity and well-being, not just for themselves themselves, but for their partners, their children, and their families. Every bag that leaves this three story red building on East 207th Street, and goes into the hands of someone in need, helps an entire community of people.

The rush has ended, and we have served around one hundred and twenty-five to one hundred and seventy-five people. I feel a welcome rush of cold morning air fill in my lungs. The warm morning sun beams onto my skin, as if it is a sign from the heavens, commending me for the good work I have accomplished. Similarly to all the people we have served, I walk through the large red door and head inside.

Angel is the first person I see inside. He’s sitting down by the table at the entrance keeping track of the people who come in. As I walk towards him, he notices the streams of sweat that wash down my face.

He smiles and says, “Working hard?” as he hands me a bottle of water. I smile and gracefully intake a long sip.

He says, “It’s really wonderful that you’re doing this; it’s a great thing.”

“Yes,” I respond. “I have been wanting to do something that gives me a sense of purpose, an activity that contributes to the health of this community. The food pantry is great, great for my soul and great for this community,” I continued.

“I felt the same way when I first started,” he said.

“Really?”

“Well, yes, we always had a food pantry, and it was run by many different people, and I knew it helped many people in the community.  You saw the need even before the pandemic. During the pandemic, the need became increasingly dire, and a lot of food pantries shut down, and it would have been a tragedy if we didn’t help that one person who really needed it. But even without all that, it really helps the people who work. You see the people, and how they enjoy this. They’re working hard, even when its raining, snowing, or ten degrees outside, and they are still very enthusiastic about what they are doing. Right away, we see the results and you get to see the end product.” 

Three hundred and sixteen. This is the number of people whom we served today.

Three hundred and sixteen is the number of families to whom we have brought stability, even if it’s just for a few days.

Three hundred and sixteen are the number of hearts that have been touched by a simple act of kindness.

I walk and see my mom as she removes her gloves. We started serving at the food pantry at the same time. We both did this as a tribute and service to the community that we want to see flourish.

We gather our things and exchange our goodbyes with everyone. A common message is uttered by everyone. “We’ll see you next week.” As we all head home, we anticipate returning to the three story brick building on Perry Avenue with the small white room, to resume our service to our community.

“During the pandemic, the need became increasingly dire, and a lot of food pantries shut down, and it would have been a tragedy if we didn’t help that one person who really needed it,” Angel said.

About the Contributor
Isaiah Muniz, Staff Reporter
Isaiah Muniz is an Editorial Editor for 'The Science Survey.' He enjoys pieces that creatively spotlight people, organizations, and occurrences in small communities. He enjoys how journalism serves as a source of creativity, inspiration, and education. Isaiah appreciates how photojournalism is a great way to gather specific and meaningful details about a particular situation or event. Throughout his writing, Isaiah enjoys sharing his hobbies and interests such as community activism and service, sports, music, and politics. Alongside journalism, he serves as editor of Dynamo, Bronx sciences’s literary magazine, a member of Speech and Debate, and also spends time creating music on his clarinet. His most likely career paths include community activism, media, and broadcast journalism.