WageWorks, MTA Refusing Refunds for Unused Pre-Paid Commuter Benefit

April 22, 2020

AUTHOR Leslie Gersing

Amid the Covid-19 pandemic, WageWorks and the MTA are refusing to provide refunds for transit passes of New York City workers who have been ordered to stay home. WageWorks’ Transitchek program enables commuters to use pre-tax dollars of up to $270 a month to pay for subway, bus, train, ferry, car or eligible vanpools, while also reducing payroll taxes paid by their employers.

On March 18, Governor Cuomo ordered the closing of all non-essential businesses, from March 22 until April 15.

The next day, WageWorks sent emails to some of its customers’ benefits administrators, entitled “Update on COVID-19 and your commuter benefit – no action needed.” In three separate bullets it said,

The fulfillment for your upcoming April commuter order will go forward as usual.
Regular established pass return and refund policies remain in effect.
If and when transit and parking providers make changes to their policies in response to COVID-19, we will work with them to extend those to you.
The WageWorks email contained links to summaries of return and refund policies at the MTA and also said, “if you need to make changes to pending elections, please log in to your account by your order deadline.”

However, the MTA’s website says it does not provide refunds for MetroCards “while the transit system continues to operate” and is unable to resolve issues with “pre-tax MetroCards you received through programs like WageWorks.”

“Many workers were essentially forced to go ahead with purchases of MetroCards that they would have canceled if they had a choice,” said Gabrielle Prisco, a WageWorks participant and employee of a New York City-based non-profit. She was particularly riled by WageWorks’ internal policy requiring participants to make changes to their benefits by the 10th of each month. “If the deadline had been extended, rather than paying for a MetroCard they won’t use, some workers would have used that money for actual emergency needs—such as extra food or medicine, or compensating for a family member’s lost income.”

WageWorks sent Debbie Spero’s company a similar email, on the evening Cuomo ordered the “pause.” That version included a bullet that said, “Please note there are no credit or refund options for the Premium TransitChek MetroCard product.” And it said employees had until March 31 to log onto their accounts to make changes to their pending May benefits.

“I called Transitchek on April 9th to see if I could cancel my May (PMC benefit) and they said I could not suspend May on April 9,” said Spero, a new business development manager for a metro area IT staffing firm. That’s when she found out WageWorks required employees at her firm to make changes by the eighth of each month. After several days of calls, Spero says, a WageWorks supervisor told her, “the only thing I could do now was to suspend my June Metrocard and told me I had until the end of April to do so.”

On April 16, Cuomo extended the closure of non-essential businesses to May 15.

It is unclear how many TransitChek participants there are. Sponsors of a 2016 New York City law requiring non-governmental businesses with more than 20 full-time workers to offer the benefit, estimated it would increase TransitChek membership to 1.45 million riders from 1 million.

WageWorks administers consumer-directed benefits and charges companies a fee for every participant in a company’s pre-tax commuter benefits plan, as well as other monthly expenses. WageWorks is a subsidiary of publicly traded HealthEquity.

WageWorks declined to say how many workers receive its commuter benefits in New York or the how many of those may be affected by the governor’s shutdown.

”We have and continue to support transit agency policies like the MTA, NJ Transit and others, related to returning passes. We’re constantly exploring options to ease the burden on people who are unable to use their passes and will continue to support the decisions transit agencies make regarding the return of their passes,” said Maureen Locus, WageWorks’ senior manager of corporate communications in a statement.

“We communicated to all our members regarding future elections and encourage them to determine if they may have a transit need. Members may continue to adjust their account as appropriate, given their commute needs,” said Locus.

Demands for refunds and cancellation of payroll deductions linked to Covid-19 come as the MTA faces huge deficits, and a 60 percent decline in subway ridership and up to 90 percent on commuter railways.

“MTA is in dire straits with money and has asked for another $3.9B from federal government,” said MTA spokesperson Meredith Daniels, in a statement.

“The MTA continues to run essential service for essential employees and those are the people who are, and should be, commuting to their jobs. Companies who have been providing commuter benefits through payroll deductions, and have changed to a telecommuting policy, have a responsibility to notify employees about how to manage their accounts to accommodate their commuting status,” she added.

Daniels says the MTA sells 3 million MetroCards annually to WageWorks for use on MTA subways and buses. It sells 75 million MetroCards overall.

In a statement provided to City Limits on Wednesday afternoon, the MTA said: “It is WageWorks’ responsibility to notify their customers who have changed to a telecommuting policy that they need to adjust their payroll deductions so their employees have enough notice to appropriately manage their accounts during this time. No one anticipated how this pandemic would affect working people and WageWorks, as the benefit provider, has an obligation to accommodate their customers as the MTA focuses on the important job of providing essential service for essential employees.”  

“Now is not the time to point fingers and deflect responsibility on who must refund riders,” said Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez, Chair of the Council’s Transportation Committee in a statement. “New Yorkers are going through an incredibly challenging time and we must work together to get them the help they need,” “Our priority is to support and help all workers currently impacted by COVID,” Rodriguez added.

“The bottom line is that this decision risks public safety and is an economic injustice,” says Prisco.

Some transit agencies that partner with WageWorks are taking steps to mitigate the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on their commuting workers, including those in San Francisco and Philadelphia.


Upper West Side Mending Lab

Ripped jeans, tattered T-shirts, a moth-eaten sweater, even beloved stuffed animals – all found their way to a one-day pop-up at the shuttered Steven Alan clothing store on Amsterdam Avenue near West 82nd Street.

Graduate students Tara Maurice and Tianyue “Caroline” Zhang hosted the workshop for their thesis called “Pretty/Ugly: Fashion, Waste & Consumption.” Their research for a Masters in Design for Social Innovation at the School of Visual Arts focuses on the economic, environmental and human costs of “fast-fashion.” They billed the Sept. 29th event as a way to learn a valuable life skill, while meeting friends, neighbors and others concerned about clothing waste.

“Jeans get better as they get older, right?” said one woman, who spotted the Mending Lab poster and returned with several damaged goods. “It’s always the one you love the most that gets the hole.”

Standing over a sewing machine, Maurice, a former fashion executive, revived piles of shirts and pants that would have become garbage. She sewed cloth patches on the inside to stabilize giant holes, before creating a web of stitching on the outside.

“In terms of solid waste, we basically throw away most of what we buy within a year of its original purchase. So, knowing that and being a designer, it got hard to be a designer,” said Maurice, who lives on the Upper West Side with her husband and children. “I’m trying to do a different kind of designing, which is designing a solution.”

“Extend the Life-Cycle”

The women hung samples of potential art-messaging around the room. “Fashion now is a system that makes things for consumers to throw away,” read one poster, a photo of scavengers on a landfill. Another showed two well-dressed women in winter coats, and a recent claim, “80 pounds: the amount of shoes and clothing the average Western consumer discards per year.”

Caroline Zhang hovered over a growing group of novices and veterans, demonstrating various hand-stitching techniques for mending tears, closing holes and reinforcing frayed seams.

“We buy things and just give them away, so I think it is important for us, not to make a new life, but to extend the life-cycle of all the stuff we’ve bought,” said Zhang, who studied sociology in China before interning at several fashion magazines.

“I can’t find it!” said Mary Beth Lumley, marveling at a once-visible hole in her favorite cardigan. “It’s a nice sweater, and I haven’t had the heart to throw it away or recycle it. I didn’t want to give it to Good Will or Salvation Army because there was a hole in it.”

A Social Experience

Others chose “visible mending,” a technique that uses decorative fabrics and elaborate stitching to show off repairs. Some say renewed interest in this technique is a deliberate rejection of cheap, disposable “fast-fashion,” along with a move toward owning fewer things and living in smaller spaces.

In no time, veterans were helping beginners, and novices were sharing their newfound skills with each other. The social nature of the pop-up surprised several people who grew up mending their belongings at home, often out of necessity.

“This is just great, to get together with other people out to repair things, plus to raise my consciousness about the clothing industry, which I never thought about,” said Amy Stone, an Upper West Sider who learned the skill as a Girl Scout.

“We want to create community where people can connect with each other by doing things with [their] hands, together,” said Zhang. “Not that we persuade people to say ‘you should not buy things.’ It’s impossible. But by making people get together, we … make things happen.”

Financial Opportunity

There’s much to be done right here. The average New Yorker tosses out 46 pounds of clothing and other textiles, or nearly 200,000 tons annually, according the City’s Department of Sanitation (DSNY). This fiscal year, DSNY budgeted more than $412 million to export its garbage to landfills as far away as South Carolina. In 2016, it launched “donateNYC, ” an initiative to prevent reusable electronics, furniture and other items from entering the waste stream. Last year the program diverted more than 11,500 tons of textiles and clothing from landfills.

There’s also a growing financial opportunity in salvaging garments. The sanitation department’s “NYC Reuse Sector Report 2019” found 432 retailers and community organizations engaged in the reuse, recycling or resale of clothing, up from 375 in 2017. Recent surveys suggest more shoppers consider resale value when buying clothes, and big corporations are, at least, talking about “sustainable” production processes.

Zhang and Maurice say solutions will be difficult because the problems are so complex. The thesis of their graduate study remains a work in progress. But they were thrilled with the turnout at the Mending Lab. More than 30 people dropped in for a chance to learn – or remember – how to mend their garments using needles, thread and patches of recycled fabric. So many people took part – and wanted to stay so long – that the three-hour event went on for five hours.

For more information on NYC Sanitation Department’s reuse and recycling programs, visit:

https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/dsny/site/services/donate-goods

“I’m trying to do a different kind of designing, which is designing a solution.” Graduate student Tara Maurice

Also published online and in print editions of Chelsea News, Our Town-East Sider, and Our Town-Downtown.

Will ‘Produce Prescriptions’ Show Healthy Returns?

Federal, private funders bet food-as-pharmacy programs will deliver healthcare cost savings

  • by Leslie Gersing, Contributing Writer September 25, 2019

When low-income patients with high blood pressure fill their prescriptions at certain New York City pharmacies, they walk away with $30 in vouchers to spend on fresh fruits and vegetables at the city’s farmer’s markets.

The city’s “Pharmacy to Farm Prescriptions Program” has reached more than 1,000 hypertensive SNAP recipients since it launched in 2017, and has grown from 3 to 16 participating pharmacies. It is set to report outcomes data next year.

The program is supported in part by a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), which is poised to make an even bigger impact on the food-as-pharmacy programs that have been growing in popularity. The 2018 Farm Bill established a national Produce Prescription Program that sets aside millions in grants each year.

With diet-related illnesses like heart disease and obesity costing hundreds of billions of dollars each year in the U.S., other funders are also expecting a healthy return-on-investment (ROI) in these programs, which means more initiatives like New York City’s may find the means to thrive.

USDA has been supporting projects to increase produce consumption among SNAP recipients since 2014, under the Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program (formerly the Food Insecurity Nutrition Initiative). The bill now guarantees GusNIP can administer $25 million in produce prescription grants — not just for SNAP-based programs — for the fiscal year beginning in 2018, jumping to $45 million for the 2019 fiscal year and rising to its cap of $56 million in 2023. The first grants will be awarded in October.

The Local Food Hub in Charlottesville, Virginia, currently receives funding from local businesses and philanthropies, but has applied for a federal grant. Its Fresh Farmacy program provides low-income patients who have chronic disease with produce from local farmers. Participants pick up their “shares” every other week during the growing season.

“We have seen first-hand the impact of incorporating healthy food to manage weight, maintain healthy blood glucose levels, and reduce the risk of diabetes complications,” said Patricia Polgar-Bailey, a nurse practitioner at the Charlottesville Free Clinic, which participates in Fresh Farmacy.

Federal dollars aren’t the only way to keep food-as-pharmacy programs afloat. Wholesome Wave, a non-profit that was co-founded by Gus Schumacher, has been supporting produce prescription projects since 2010.

Wholesome Wave gets money from philanthropies and corporate partners – including Target, Chobani, and Humana, to name a few – to foster such programs.

“There are non-profits and private-sector supporters trying to prove the model in the interest of getting insurers and the healthcare industry to really step up,” said Julie Peters, director of programs at Wholesome Wave.

An example of the organization’s support: it’s putting money into a produce prescriptions pilot for diabetes at Community Health and Wellness Partners (CHWP) in Logan County, Ohio, which is also supported by state and federal dollars.

Once a month, participants attend nutrition classes taught by staff dietitians, and subsequently receive vouchers for up to $120, depending on family size, to purchase produce at local grocery stores or farmer’s markets.

Among those who have completed three months of classes, HbA1c has already declined 0.6 percentage points on average, said Jason Martinez, a clinical pharmacist at CHWP who has analyzed preliminary data from the program.

Will these improvements translate to reduced healthcare costs? That has been the case at Geisinger Health System’s Fresh Food Farmacy initiative. The program focuses on patients with type 2 diabetes who experience food insecurity. In addition to 15 hours of disease and nutrition counseling, participants get enough healthy food for 5 days of the family’s weekly meals.

Over 18 months, participants’ HbA1c levels fell 2.1 points on average, compared with declines of 0.5-1.2 points for those taking two or three medications only. Along with improvements in weight, cholesterol, and hypertension, that has translated to an 80% drop in healthcare spending for 37 of about 200 participants who were insured by Geisinger, according to early data.

“We know the cost of the program, all-in, for the food and the clinical care is around $2,500, so it’s reasonable to assume that there’s an ROI that we would experience with that,” said Allison Hess, vice president of health and wellness at Geisinger. She’s hopeful that ROI will convince insurance companies “to potentially fund this as part of a benefit package.”

Similarly — albeit hypothetically — a recent simulation study of Medicare and Medicaid recipients predicted that providing a 30% subsidy on fruits and vegetables would prevent nearly 2 million cardiovascular events and save almost $40 billion in annual healthcare costs.

https://www.medpagetoday.com/primarycare/dietnutrition/82368

Rx for Fruits and Veggies


BY LESLIE GERSING
PUBLISHED AUG 2, 2019 AT 2:58 PM (UPDATED AUG 2, 2019)

NYC pharmacies fill “prescriptions” for greenmarket produce for low-income residents with high blood pressure

NYC Health Department Flyer

“Pharmacists, we found, were really excited to talk, not just about medication, but also about changes that people can make in their life for their health.”

Jeni Clapp, director of nutrition policy and programs, NYC Department of Health

Your next drugstore refill could include a “prescription” for free fruit and vegetables. The New York City Health Department is expanding its “Pharmacy to Farm Prescriptions” program, to increase access to fresh produce for low-income New Yorkers with high blood pressure.

One in four New York City adults have high blood pressure, a leading cause of death, says the Health Department. Eating fruit and vegetables can lower the risk of heart disease.

Now 16 independent pharmacies in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens will provide customers with monthly “farm prescriptions,” that are good for $30 worth of produce at designated, local farmers markets. Enrollment is open to adults who use Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits and take blood pressure medication. Customers must sign up, and fill their prescriptions, at a participating drugstore. The pilot started in 2017 with three pharmacies, and grew to 10 last year.

In a survey of current enrollees, 61 percent said they worried about hunger after their monthly benefits ran out, and 80 percent said fruits and vegetables cost too much.

 “We wanted to find a way to extend people’s food budgets, particularly for people who are at risk for diet-related chronic disease. So we looked for people who were on blood pressure medication,” said Jeni Clapp, the Health Department’s Director of Nutrition Policy and Programs.  

The pilot targeted independent pharmacies, because most of them are located in low-income neighborhoods and serve people of color, Clapp said.

 “They are available long hours, people can go to them without appointments. Many people have seen the same pharmacist for years, and pharmacists, we found, were really excited to talk, not just about medication, but also about changes that people can make in their life for their health,” she said.

“We’ve noticed a lot of people, getting the $30 for their fruits and vegetables, actually coming back to the pharmacy, and we’ve noticed that it’s changed their diet a lot,” says Victor Domenech, pharmacy technician at QuickRx UWS on Columbus Avenue at 104th Street, which joined the pilot last year.

The “farm prescriptions” give customers an incentive to stay on their medications, eat less salt and fried and focus on their health, says Domenench.  He has convinced some to walk to the West 97 Street Greenmarket.

 “The main reason for this program is for us to review the patients’ way of living while they are on blood pressure medications,” said Zami Yasin at his family-owned New York City Pharmacy, on First Avenue in the East Village.  Returning participants also get an “award” of healthier food that’s always within their budgets, he said.  

 “It’s been astounding and really exciting to be able to introduce people to the market, show them what’s in season, show them how to prepare it healthfully — we always have gobs of free recipes. And  then, they have $30 they can spend on fruits and vegetables that are offered,” said Cheryl Huber, Greenmarket Assistant Director at GrowNYC.

“The whole thing has really been a positive experience for the Pharmacy to Farm participants, our staff, and the farmers, who see a nice boost in income from this program,” Huber said.

So far, $80,000 in Pharmacy to Farm prescriptions have been issued to 850 participants. Nearly 90 percent get redeemed. 

The Health Department is compiling data on the health effects of the pilot program, based in part on monthly questionnaires that pharmacy clients fill out when they get medications refilled. The Health Department hopes to release its findings next year. 

Published in print and online at The Spirit, Chelsea News, and Our Town

Trump Administration’s Food Stamp Move Could Cost City Economy $150M

 

New York City grocers could lose millions monthly in federal food-stamp proposal

March 14, 2019 03:44 PM
Bloomberg

City grocers could stand to lose millions of dollars in monthly sales under the Trump administration’s proposal to cut food stamps for adults without minor children, city officials said.

About 75,000 city residents who receive an average $150 in monthly food benefits, would be affected, according to the city’s Department of Social Services.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture, which administers the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, in December proposed restricting states’ power to waive time limits for such adults, ages 18 to 49.

Currently, SNAP is capped at three months over a three-year period unless people work or get job training at least 80 hours per month. But states can waive time limits if unemployment is relatively high or jobs are scarce. New York exempts the Bronx, northern Manhattan and parts of Queens.

The proposal would limit waivers to cities and counties where unemployment tops 7%. The city’s jobless rate is 4.1%.

Fewer SNAP users “would have a huge effect on our business,” said Pedro Guzman, manager of the Super Value Meat Market in Manhattan, “because the majority of our customers do have SNAP.” The store cut employees’ hours when SNAP benefits were reduced in the past, Guzman said.

Some 9,400 city retailers redeemed $2.8 billion in SNAP benefits last year, state data show. Around 80% are small businesses.

                                                                       [for more]

 

Early food stamp benefits due to shutdown

Early food stamp benefits due to shutdown

BY LESLIE GERSING
PUBLISHED JAN 18, 2019 AT 2:49 PM (UPDATED JAN 18, 2019)

February SNAP payments issued early but have to last through end of next month

Most food stamp benefits for February became available on Thursday, January 17, as a result of the federal government shutdown, worrying New York City and state officials that the money will be spent too quickly to last through next month. They’re not even sure March benefits will be paid out at all.

NY Common Pantry case manager with guests
Photo Courtesy: NY Common Pantry

State and City officials warn that the 2.7 million New Yorkers who depend on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits, or SNAP, could get their electronic payment ahead of schedule, mistake it as a bonus, and use it up all at once. [MORE]

 

New York’s Hungry Will Benefit from a Byproduct of Trump’s Trade War

The president seen signing a trade deal with the leaders of Mexico and Canada. His administration has purchased food from U.S. farmers hurt by the tariffs and is donating some of it to food assistance programs. Photo: The White House

Convoys of trucks will arrive as early Monday, December 17, with the first special delivery of more than $12.7 million worth of meat, fresh produce, and other food, for New York State’s hungriest residents.

Through March 2019, twice-monthly shipments to the state’s eight regional food banks, will reach “over 2,500 soup kitchens/pantries in all 62 counties,” said Joseph Brillo, spokesman for the New York State Office of General Services in an email.

Under the $12 billion Trade Mitigation package the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) unveiled in July, the USDA agreed to purchase food from farmers and producers, to compensate them for losses due to the Trump Administration’s tariff wars with China, NAFTA partners Mexico and Canada, and other nations. USDA designated $1.2 billion for nutrition assistance such as The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) and child nutrition programs. [Continued at City Limits]

 

RISING TO THE (TURKEY) CHALLENGE

Gregory Silverman, executive director of the West Side Campaign Against Hunger, finds his dream job

Greg Silverman, the West Side Campaign Against Hunger’s executive director. Photo: courtesy WSCAH

Chef Greg Silverman has taken a long journey to combine his love of working “on the line” in restaurant kitchens with trying to combat hunger. After graduating from the former French Culinary Institute in Manhattan, the search took him from owning restaurants in Ithaca, New York, to the Peace Corps in Mali, to nutrition education and emergency food programs in London and Washington, D.C.

In January 2017, he became executive director of the West Side Campaign Against Hunger (WSCAH) at the Church of St. Paul & St. Andrew at West 86th Street near West End Avenue. Founded in 1979, WSCAH is the nation’s oldest supermarket-style food pantry. It also provides a one-stop gateway to social services and trains some clients as chefs.

Silverman lives in Harlem with his wife and baby daughter. He talked to Straus News about WSCAH’s mission, and how the community pitches in to help its neighbors at Thanksgiving.

What is WSCAH doing to help its customers have a traditional Thanksgiving?

Everyone is used to seeing a turkey on the table on Thanksgiving from a very young age, and understanding that some people don’t have that opportunity is a powerful message. Every year we run the “Thousand Turkey Challenge.” We ask people for $18 for a turkey. You can give us a check, you can go online and pay for a turkey, and you can text TURKEY [to 56512] and we will get money for that.

Community members, various folks on the Upper West Side, long-standing religious institutions and schools, reach out to their communities. We’ll probably give out over 1,200 turkeys. People are getting bread and they’re getting potatoes and sweet potatoes and carrots, and they’re getting greens. The funding goes to all the food that we give to people during the holiday season. We want you to be able to have joy on that day, and forget about all the troubles that are happening, and enjoy a turkey and just have a great time.

One of your fundraisers showcases some of WSCAH’s future chefs, right?

Our [November 13th] fundraiser is our great opportunity to have dinner to again bring the community together. Over 200 people come to a three-course, sit-down dinner cooked by our Culinary Pathways Chef Training students. It’s been amazing to watch these students in 12 weeks learn, not just knife skills but, more so, [gain] the confidence to go after a job and get a job, whether it’s in the pastry kitchen or in the service of food or in the prep kitchen. [The program] just gives people opportunity. This year we’ll raise close to $250,000.

Do you see more demand during the holidays?

Across emergency feeding [organizations] in New York City, need spikes in November and December. And partly it’s because people want to do more for their families, but people struggle. It’s seasonal employment, there’s all these issues that are happening. So we struggle to make sure we have all the food we need on the shelves for all the extra customers.

What other services does WSCAH provide?

We are a free grocery store. So many customers come here because we give better food and we give more food. [Our] mobile market [truck] came online this past year. We’ve grown our number of people that we see by 25 percent in less than a year, and instead of bringing people to food, we’re bringing food to people.

Like any non-profit, or entity, we have to have the money to do our work. That goes to make sure that we can keep that truck rolling across the city, that we can have a free chef training program, that we can have six social service staff, in-taking every customer so that when you show up at the WSCAH, you’re not just getting food. Do you need immigration support? Do you need health insurance? [Do you have] housing issues? We want to help lift people out of food insecurity and poverty, and it takes a lot more than just food.

WSCAH’s mobile food pantry, which serves neighborhoods in northern Manhattan and the Bronx, brings enough food for 150 clients per trip. Photo: courtesy WSCAH

 

How did you go from being a chef, running restaurants, to running a free food pantry?

I had three restaurants for many years. It wasn’t enough to cook great meals for my customers. I was spending more and more time as a board member of a soup kitchen and running a literacy program in Ithaca because it was more satisfying. I took a break to go into the Peace Corps, but ended up working there in Mali in West Africa, mostly with restaurateurs. Again I was stuck as a chef in a good way, working with local community members who were trained to advance their business interests and also who were trying to do good by their community.

I worked for the City of London on nutrition education programming. I re-did school feeding programs in East London. In Washington, D.C., I helped grow a program for a non-profit called Share Our Strength. I led their national nutrition education initiatives and that also allowed me to be our lead on White House engagement. I saw a lot on how to scale programs across the country, and how to influence policy and how to do advocacy.

What’s so special about the Upper West Side and WSCAH?

I’ve worked in national organizations in Washington and London, and what I’ve found is a lack of connection to the work on the ground. At the WSCAH, it’s not about trying to make that connection happen. It just simply is a community — a community of 20,000 food customers, 800 volunteers a year, 3,000 people who donate to us every year, of a myriad number of public and private schools, religious institutions, government officials and businesses all across the Upper West Side, all coming together to feed their community.

Coming to the West Side Campaign Against Hunger gave me the opportunity to pull everything I’ve done into one place. This organization has innovated how to perform emergency feeding in a way no one has, building up a customer-choice model. It advocates at a city, state and federal level, and at the same time, we’re a community and a team who work together every single day. And that sort of ability to be on the ground and also functioning at a high level at the same time allows me to be all that I want to be.

Last question: what’s your favorite vegetable?

Beets. The first thing my daughter ever ate was a beet puree.

++++

WANT TO DONATE?  Go to www.wscah.org/thousand-turkey-challenge for more information.

 

 

Lights Out at Lowe’s

The DIY giant shutters its Manhattan stores

They’ve already “turned out the lights” at Lowe’s stores in Manhattan.

Home improvement giant Lowe’s Companies officially announced on Monday that it was closing its two Manhattan stores — on the Upper West Side and Chelsea — as part of a plan to shutter 20 “underperforming” locations in the U.S. and 31 in Canada by this coming February.

Both stores opened in 2015 and catered to city dwellers, offering apartment-sized appliances and other space-saving products.

“This location has closed,” said a sign reportedly posted on the door of the Upper West Side Lowe’s at 2008 Broadway. The sign said customers should go to nearby branches in Brooklyn and Northern New Jersey.

The Chelsea location, at 635 Sixth Avenue, is also “permanently closed,” according to Lowe’s website, which directs visitors to the other stores and Lowes.com.

Manhattan employees may be able to find work at remaining locations. In a press statement, CEO and President Marvin Ellison said, “We believe our people are the foundation of our business … we are making every effort to transition impacted associates to nearby Lowe’s stores.”

Lowe’s has had trouble competing with big-box rival Home Depot, which has two branches in Manhattan. Lowe’s has also begun closing its Orchard Supply Hardware chain.

The publicly traded Fortune 500 company also said the closures will cost it between 28 and 34 cents per share. It expects to provide details during the next quarterly earnings call on November 20.

http://www.westsidespirit.com/local-news/20181105/lights-out-at-lowes/1