April 24, 2024
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Jessica Presedo helps feed the hungry

Alumna works for the Food Bank of NYC

Jessica Presedo sits on the back of a Food Bank for New York City truck. Jessica Presedo sits on the back of a Food Bank for New York City truck.
Jessica Presedo sits on the back of a Food Bank for New York City truck. Image Credit: Contributed photo.

​Volunteering at a Johnson City soup kitchen set Jessica Presedo ’12 on a path that’s unusual for a math and Spanish major.

“One of the dining service workers from my residence hall was there to receive food,” Presedo says. “It reinforced that you never know who is struggling to afford food. Many people are working full time but need help. That made me want to be in the nonprofit sector helping people from all walks of life.”

Presedo is the associate director of corporate service and engagement for the Food Bank for New York City, building and maintaining relationships with more than 300 businesses citywide.

Presedo assists with on-site volunteer programs as well as pop-up food banks set up at various company offices where employees are able to take an hour off to pack pantry boxes. The on-site volunteer program went on hiatus during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Although we suspended in-person volunteering, we shifted to more remote means of support,” Presedo says. “We encouraged fundraising drives and have a ‘Dear New York’ letter-writing campaign where volunteers can work individually or get together on a video call and write letters of hope and cheer for community members receiving pantry bags.”

The mass business shutdown and resulting job losses from the pandemic translated into a drastically increased need for food. For example, at a popup distribution center at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, 41,700 pounds of food was distributed to nearly 1,000 households, feeding more than 5,500 people. Presedo’s organization not only saw more people coming in; it saw more first-timers.

“One of the most important things we do when working with volunteers or interfacing with the public is dispelling the myth that the Food Bank only serves homeless people,” Presedo says. “Most of the people we serve are working — single mothers and the elderly.”

Presedo enjoys being on site when food is distributed because she’s able to see clients’ reactions. Toward the end of the year, people are thankful to receive a turkey voucher because they “can have a holiday like everyone else.”

At the Barclays distribution site, Presedo had the unenviable task of telling people at the back of a long food line that there might not be anything when they reach the front.

“Out of 100 people in that line, maybe two gave up and left,” Presedo says. “Almost everyone stayed. The hope that they could get something was worth waiting for an hour. It hammered home that the need in New York City is so real, and our efforts go a long way. The relief you see on people’s faces when they walk away with food makes everything worth it.”

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