Pep rally for New York Liberty in Midtown supports Food Bank’s ‘Women to Women’ campaign


A campaign led by the largest food bank in New York City kicked off a third year of supporting women with a pep rally on Tuesday, April 11 at One Penn Plaza featuring members of the New York Liberty.

The rally celebrated the campaign’s corporate partners and the Food Bank for New York City’s 800 member organizations — including soup kitchens, homeless shelters and churches — and rallied employees to raise money and donations for hygiene kits through the month of April.

Food Bank board member Katie Lee launched the Woman to Woman campaign in 2016 by to raise awareness and financial support for more woman and girls to obtain a few basic necessities. The effort addresses the 800,000 woman and girls across New York City facing poverty by raising funds and donations to create hygiene kids with essentials, including menstrual products. The hygiene kits to be distributed across New York City over the next several months. 

Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield also organized an event with the Liberty to donate care packages to the homeless at their new office at One Penn Plaza, where the company had relocated to last May. Liberty CEO Keia Clarke suggested a pep rally to kick off the start of the WNBA’s 2023 season.

From there, they decided to rope in the Food Bank’s Woman to Woman campaign. 

“It’s not just the corporate folks, this comes from the players,” Clarke said. “They want to be in the community, they want to give back and they want to empower women.”

Janis Robinson, the Food Bank’s vice president of institutions and partnerships, pointed to the long-term association with Empire, and their more recent partnership with the New York Liberty. The goal is to raise enough to donate 1.4 million pounds of menstrual products.

In addition to the food insecurity the Food Bank is addressing, the nonprofit also strives to provide the essential needs that women and girls have to forgo. Robinson acknowledged the reality that women facing poverty experience and the many trade-offs they make.

“Hygiene items might take a backseat,” Robinson said. “We’re really trying to raise funds so that we can support women. The hygiene kits are going to all of the boroughs.”

Keia Clarke, Dr. Mark Levy, Janice Robinson, Ellie the Elephant, Kara Coleman, and Alan Murray at the pep rally to kick start the New York Liberty season and donation round for women’s hygiene kits at One Penn Plaza on Thursday, April 11, 2023.Photo by Sarah Belle Lin.

The hygiene kits are designed to cover two months worth of menstrual products, according to Alessandra Simkin, who works at Empire. The kits should save individuals anywhere from $90 to $100 for those covered months. Empire has donated around $325,000 to support the Food Bank of New York City.

“Finance should not be a barrier to having the right health care (and) to having the right feminine products,” said Alan Murray, president and CEO of Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield.

Funds from the Food Bank’s 2022 Woman to Woman campaign helped the organization provide 1.4 million pounds of household and personal care items to New Yorkers in need, including nearly 400,000 pounds of hygiene essentials and more than 200,000 pounds of menstrual products.

Nearly 8% of people under the age of 65 in New York City do not have health insurance, according to the 2020 U.S. Census.   

Murray said that Empire is working towards strengthening trust with more communities across New York City, especially in the area of maternal health and health education.

Said Murray, “When it comes to women’s health, how do we make sure that we can communicate, educate, and build trust so that they can get the right access at the right time, not just for a one-time event, but for continuous care that they deserve?”