West Side Campaign Against Hunger

Everything begins somewhere. The West Side Campaign Against Hunger began with a need, and an idea.

A Short History of WSCAH

By Rev. K Karpen, St Paul & St Andrew

Everything begins somewhere. The West Side Campaign Against Hunger began with a need, and an idea. By the late 1970s, the NYC fiscal crisis was having a devastating impact on many Westsiders. Churches and synagogues were struggling to respond to the families and individuals who were daily showing up, desperate for help. St Paul & St Andrew banded together with others, including Rodeph Sholom, West-Park Church, and Christ & St Stephen’s, to strategize, and, with financial help from the Area Policy Board and a church agency, WSCAH was launched.

Peter Arndtsen, WSCAH’s first coordinator, worked with others to
set up a small pantry on the third floor of St Paul & St Andrew. Interviews were conducted on a stairwell between the first and second floor. It wasn’t ideal, but it was a start.

From the beginning, supplying food was only part of the mission. Equally important was collecting information on the causes of hunger, educating congregations and elected officials about the need to respond, and pushing for systemic change.

From these modest roots, WSCAH grew rapidly. By 1990, it had relocated to larger space in the church basement. In 1993, director Doreen Wohl created the first supermarket-style food pantry, letting people choose the food they needed. As the pantry continued to grow, WSCAH and St Paul & St Andrew launched a major capital campaign to improve the space, raising $4 million from individuals, foundations, and, thanks to Councilmember Gale Brewer and Assemblymember Scott Stringer, from the City and NY State.

Seeing a need for food to be brought to where people are, a Mobile
Pantry was purchased through Helen Rosenthal’s office, and 20
sites identified around NYC. This began WSCAH’s city-wide work.

The Covid-19 pandemic forced major changes. Food distribution moved outdoors, and the entire church became an emergency food warehouse. Recognizing the need for larger, more appropriate storage and sorting space, WSCAH’s CEO Greg Silverman led the effort to find, rent, renovate and equip an enormous new warehouse facility in Washington Heights.

What’s next for WSCAH? With your help, we’ll find out!