Neighbors Together was founded in 1982 by a group of Catholic nuns and local residents who saw that more and more people were unable to make ends meet in their community.
Once strongholds of working and middle class pride, the Ocean Hill, Brownsville, and Bedford- Stuyvesant neighborhoods of Brooklyn have been struck by overwhelming changes in the past few decades. Our community has seen the loss of living wage jobs, increasingly limited access to affordable housing and health care, and a rise in drugs and drug-related violence.
Instead of giving up or waiting for help from outside, our determined founders took action. They pooled their limited resources to create Neighbors Together, named for the philosophy that remains at the very heart of our operations.
On October 25, 1982, Neighbors Together opened its doors as a welcoming soup kitchen and community organization. When Neighbors Together was founded, we were one of less than 50 soup kitchens and food pantries in New York City. Today, there are more than 1,200 serving 1.4 million people a year.
The founders of Neighbors Together believed that the need for emergency food would be temporary and that our work could eventually shift to address other pressing community needs. They had no idea that despite their efforts hunger would increase over the next 30 years.
Throughout the 80’s and 90’s Neighbors Together’s tiny storefront functioned as a community gathering space and place of refuge for people at the bottom of the economic ladder.
In 2006, we packed up the cramped, single room operation where we had spent our first 24 years, and moved up the block to our contemporary cafe-style space—a dramatic upgrade from our first location right around the corner. We knew that our neighbors deserved a beautiful space reflective of their dignity, in which to eat, connect, and nurture their individual and collective strengths.
With more and better space, we have been able to grow our three programs to become more responsive to the needs of our community. We have also been able to deepen our founding philosophy so that those who access our programs are the ones who provide our programs, creating better volunteer structures, organizing opportunities, and participation in governance by our members.