The Church of the Ascension Hosts Pre-Thanksgiving Food Distribution

| 11/28/2023

By: The Good Newsroom

Blackbarn Chef John Doherty provided 1,250 meals, the second such donation in a week

Volunteers at The Church of the Ascension's Ascension Food Pantry await patrons on Saturday, November 20, 2023.
Volunteers at The Church of the Ascension's Ascension Food Pantry await patrons on Saturday, November 20, 2023. Photo by Steven Schwankert/The Good Newsroom

Hundreds of people took advantage of a pre-Thanksgiving food distribution at The Church of the Ascension on West 107th Street on Saturday, November 20, an event that received 1,250 meals delivered by noted New York chef John Doherty of award-winning restaurant Blackbarn.

Earlier in the week, Doherty had a similar number of meals delivered to the food pantry at St. Nicholas of Tolentine Church in the Bronx. 

Doherty approached Robin Klueber, director of the Ascension Food Pantry, about working together with Ascension’s November food distribution, Klueber told The Good Newsroom in an interview.

The Ascension Food Pantry is the only one of its kind run by teenagers, according to Klueber. The teen management of the pantry started nine years ago in part because “kids need hours for community service, for confirmation or for graduation.” Over 200 young people are registered volunteers there, Klueber said, who is also the Manhattan regional specialist for the Department of Youth Faith Formation at the Archdiocese of New York.

Among the offerings at the 130-year-old parish were whole turkeys, turkey breasts, and whole chickens. Klueber explained that some of the food pantry’s clients are migrants who may not be accustomed to eating turkey or may not have the facilities to cook one even if they are.

Also available were fresh vegetables including broccoli; fresh apples; potatoes, sweet potatoes, and powdered mashed potatoes; canned beans, corn, and gravy; and a choice of apple or pumpkin pies.

About 50 volunteers attended to help an estimated 500 visitors assemble their orders. On hand to assist with the distribution was comedian Jim Gaffigan, who attended with his son, Jack.

“I think it’s important to take the focus off yourself. Obviously, it’s helping people, but it breaks the cycle of narcissism. Walk the walk and talk the talk. It’s one thing to say you’re going to do it, it’s another thing to do it,” Gaffigan told The Good Newsroom.                   

“We really do hope that we can make an impact on the lives of those less fortunate by restoring a little dignity and nourishment, especially for children,” Doherty, who is Catholic, told The Good Newsroom in an email interview regarding an earlier meal delivery donation to the food pantry at St. Nicholas of Tolentine Church in the Bronx.

Doherty is a graduate of The Culinary Institute of America (based in Hyde Park) – and of Holy Family Diocesan High School in South Huntington, Long Island (now St. Anthony’s High School). Blackbarn, which opened in 2015, is on East 26th Street in Manhattan. 

Armando Machado contributed to this report.

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