As is clear from the hundreds of people served by the FPCY Pantry each month, food insecurity
is a very real problem in the Yorktown area. The purpose of this article is to describe two other
programs (besides the Pantry) through which our church tries to address food security in our
area — Jan Peek House and Noontime Meal — and to make an urgent plea for volunteers. Both
programs are sponsored by our Hunger Action Congregation task force. A future article will
provide more detail about the broader vision and role of the HAC.
Before describing the Jan Peek House and Noontime Meal programs, I’d like to remind you
about some important information about local food insecurity that we learned during Lent from
Liam McAuliffe (who leads the Pantry with Debbie Bernardini). Not only does the Pantry serve
hundreds of families each month; it also helps us understand the nature and magnitude of the
problem. By developing a close relationship with their clientele, Pantry leadership and
volunteers have learned that, in a great majority of cases, at least one member of the household
has a regular job (or even two), but the mismatch between wages and the cost of living in this
area is just too much. Pantry statistics kept since it began operation about 30 years ago clearly
show the impact of economic downturns and pandemics. During the worst of the current
pandemic, the number of clients tripled. Now the number has stabilized at roughly double the
pre-pandemic levels. When might we return to pre-pandemic levels? Pantry statistics from the
Great Recession years (around 2008) demonstrate that food insecurity lasts long after the
economy appears to be improving. Given today’s rampant inflation, we will likely be stuck with
abnormal levels of local food insecurity for the foreseeable future (and even the normal level is
really unacceptable; in fact the only acceptable level would be zero).
The Pantry gives us a way to meet, learn about, and help our neighbors by inviting them to our
church. Jan Peek House and Noontime Meal are complementary programs in that we meet,
learn about, and help our neighbors by visiting them where they live.
Jan Peek House
Jan Peek House is a shelter that provides food and support to approximately 40 homeless men
and women in Peekskill, NY. It is one of the non-profit programs run by CCHOP (Caring for the Hungry and Homeless of Peekskill).
Most Jan Peek house residents are recovering from substance abuse (alcohol and/or drugs).
Many experienced abuse and abandonment throughout their lives. Some have simply hit
financial rock bottom and have no family or support system to help. About 85% of the residents
are men, in the range of 30-40 years of age. Residents stay from 5 or 6 months up to a year.
Although mandated only to provide shelter, the Jan Peek House offers a program that teaches
life and job skills. Rules and a supportive structure help most residents obtain their own housing
and provide a path to re-entering society.
Because the shelter’s food service does not operate on weekends, and the on-site kitchen is too
limited to prepare regular meals, the House relies on volunteers to prepare and deliver weekend
evening meals. Along with other area churches, the First Presbyterian Church of Yorktown was
deeply involved in creating the Jan Peek House meal program in 1988. Since then, FPCY has
been responsible for serving meals on the fourth Saturday of each month.
Jan Peek is truly thankful for the help it receives from our church. As the Director explains,
“When groups come to serve meals, it means more than anything you could give to our clients.
Nothing builds self-esteem more than when they finally realize people care. And when we care
about them, they learn to care about themselves — that’s the beginning of being healthy”.
Our church is deeply indebted to Bud Coccodrilli, who served as Jan Peek House coordinator
from 2003 to 2015, and Pat Prauda, who assumed that role from Bud in 2015 and served
through the end of 2021.
Each month, 3 families get together to plan and prepare a dinner for about 40 Jan Peek
residents. Don’t worry if you’ve never done this before — each month there is at least one very
experienced family who can guide you through, and besides there are very detailed instructions
available. We are very grateful to our many Jan Peek contributors this year, including Donna Gresh, Wendy and Pete Eagleton and their family, Christine Lazarus, Barb Wanamaker, Judy Vlad, Jennifer Rowe-Behun, Amy and Vinny Wallace, Deborah Szanto-Phillips, Judy Chessa, Pam Darreff, Nance Thompson, Kaycee Perry, Courtney Donnelly, Diane Hawlk, Beth Coccodrilli and her family, and Bud and Gloria Coccodrilli.
We really need volunteers for October through December of this year. Signing up is easy: you can just go to the Genius Signup to select a month and a slot. You can also join the Jan Peek Volunteers group on Realm to get regular updates and emails.
If you would like to join this group, or if you have any questions, please contact Jeff Kephart at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Noontime Meal program is run by the Salvation Army in Peekskill. Every afternoon of the
work week, lunch is provided to approximately 45 people in Peekskill, most of whom work in the
area. First Presbyterian Church of Yorktown sponsors the lunch on the second Wednesday of
Historically, a group of people at FPCY gathered in our kitchen to prepare lunch and deliver it to
the Salvation Army center. To our eternal gratitude, Pat Prauda ran this program for many years.
During the pandemic, we switched to a different mode of operation whereby we ordered a
catered lunch from Nino’s Pizza in Yorktown. As the number of clients rose from 30 to around
45, this became financially insupportable.
In March 2022, we switched to a different approach. Now we purchase food from the ShopRite
in Cortlandt and deliver it to the Salvation Army the day before the lunch (that is, the Tuesday
before the second Wednesday of the month). The Salvation Army staff prepares the lunch the
next day. We are grateful to Pam Darreff, Diane Hawlk, and Heidi Haring for their help with Noontime Meal this year.
Being a Noontime Meal volunteer entails ordering the food from the Cortlandt ShopRite a few
days in advance, arranging a delivery time with the Salvation Army, purchasing the food, and
delivering it to the Salvation Army in Peekskill sometime between 9am and 4pm on a Tuesday.
The process takes perhaps an hour of time. Very clear instructions are available.
We are in great need of volunteers for September through December of this year. If you are interested, or if you would like more information, please contact Jeff Kephart at email@example.com or call his number listed in the FPCY Directory.