Volume 17 • Issue 30 | Dec. 17 - 23, 2004

Downtown Express photo by Elisabeth Robert

Joe Ackiewicz, an equity trader with Nomura in the World Financial Center, collects food from Starbucks to take to the John Heuss House.

Collecting food for the homeless on lunch breaks

By Divya Watal

Wall Street bankers, traders and brokers — stern, stiff and gray, with green paper flying out of their briefcases — do not easily evoke an image of charity.

However, tucked away in a nook of 2 World Financial Center in Lower Manhattan, there exist equity traders who spend their lunch hours and breaks lugging hundreds of pounds of donated food to homeless shelters and community service organizations.

“It’s good exercise — we get to walk around — and it’s a nice break from equity trading,” said Joe Ackiewicz, playing down his volunteer work. Ackiewicz, who works at Nomura Securities, spends an hour three to four times a week helping City Harvest’s Street Fleet program.

Founded in 1981, City Harvest helps feed New York City’s hungry and homeless. The organization, through its volunteers on foot and fleet of 18 trucks, collects over 19 million pounds of excess food yearly from restaurants, grocers, corporate cafeterias and manufacturers. It then delivers the food free of charge to more than 800 New York City community programs, helping over 260,000 people in need every week.

The Street Fleet program involves volunteers picking up food donations of 20 pounds or less and delivering it on foot to a community food program located within a 10-block radius of the donor.

“Nomura is our most stellar volunteer group,” said Adriane Stollenwerck, associate manager for City Harvest’s Street Fleet program. “It’s a popular program with many corporations — we have 300 volunteers in Manhattan, with over 200 pickups each week.”

City Harvest presented a special award to the Nomura team at its volunteer appreciation party in November, this year being the second year it presented such an award.

“You don’t realize how much food is wasted [in restaurants]. They would throw it all away if we didn’t collect it — and it’s good food, but they have certain standards they have to meet,” said Ackiewicz, who usually picks up food from five Starbucks coffee shops in Lower Manhattan and delivers the food to the John Huess House at Trinity Place.

Every Street Fleet team has its own route, Stollenwerck explained, and all volunteers constantly keep in touch with her so they can coordinate if someone falls sick or needs a backup. Nomura volunteers collect food from nine Starbucks, two Dunkin’ Donuts, one Au Bon Pain and one Columbus Bakery and deliver it to the New York City Rescue Mission or the John Huess House.

Apart from Ackiewicz, the team consists of eight other volunteers, mostly from the equity-trading floor. Four to five of them regularly collect and deliver food, Ackiewicz said.

“We either do it during our lunchtime or after work. Even if it’s raining or really cold, we always go,” he said.

The Street Fleet program is a free way of rescuing food, Stollenwerck said, especially since it isn’t feasible to have trucks pick up food that weighs less than 20 pounds, and it allows volunteers to interact with the community — “It gets them out of their Wall Street offices.”

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