Nets, Liberty team with HSS to open new food pantry in Brooklyn

Dignitaries from the Nets, Liberty, HSS and Food Bank for NYC open a new food pantry at P.S. 12 / M.S. 484
Christian Arnold

The Brooklyn Nets and New York Liberty may have teamed up for their biggest play of the season, and it was nowhere near the basketball court. 

Brooklyn’s two professional sports franchises opened a new food pantry at P.S. 12 / M.S. 484 in the Ocean Hill Brownsville neighborhood of the borough. The effort was a collaboration between the two basketball teams, the Hospital for Special Surgery and the Food Bank for New York City. 

The new food pantry will be stocked with non-perishable food and household items to distribute to members of the community and students that need it. The Ocean Hill Brownsville neighborhood is an area where 32% of its residents face food insecurity, according to data from the Hunter College New York City Food Policy Center

“During the pandemic, we used Barclays Center as a food bank when we were shut down and not playing games. Now that we’re back in business we’re reaching out deeper into the community. This is one of those examples,” Nets CEO John Abbamondi said. 

Abbamondi was on hand for the event, along with Liberty CEO Keia Clarke, Nets legend  Albert King, HSS president Louis Shapiro and Food Bank for NYC’s Zach Hall. 

The dignitaries on hand spoke about the importance of making sure that students were well fed so that they could focus on learning in the classroom. The issue has only grown since the COVID-19 pandemic struck in 2020, with 1 in 4 children in New York City experiencing food insecurity according to City Harvest. 

“I just want to say thank you to everyone for creating an opportunity for us to truly be able to stand in the gap of food access and inequality,” P.S. 12 principal Shamika Watson said during the ribbon-cutting ceremony. “Brownsville Brooklyn is a food desert and what this allows us to do is to make sure we provide nutritious food for not just our students in my school, but students in (M.S. 484) and our entire school community. Thank you, we’re appreciative of all that you’ve done. … Thank you for thinking of us first and allowing us to provide what we know our community needs, because here at P.S. 12 and M.S. 484 we’re beyond a school community. We’re a village. 

“We hold each other up and we uplift each other, but you can’t do that if you’re hungry.” 

Both the Nets and Liberty have taken an active role in working with organizations in and around Brooklyn to help improve the community, and Tuesday’s event was not the first time that the Liberty has helped to combat food insecurity in the city. 

In November, Betnijah Lane represented the team at a food pantry opening at P.S. 398 Walter Weaver Elementary School. Liberty CEO Keia Clarke told amNewYork that the initiative to be active in the community has come from their players.

“I think it really has stemmed from over the years, it’s been a part of the DNA of the players driving it first and the Liberty in return has really adopted it as a major focal point for us. Really delivering on disparities or issues that matter to our players, that the players want to be a part of,” Clarke said. 

One person on hand who could understand some of the struggles that some in the community may go through with food insecurities was King, who said he knew how it felt to have an empty stomach at times when we grew up in Fort Green. The Nets legend hopes that the kids in school see what was happening on Tuesday and are inspired down the line to pay it forward. 

“I think it impacts you as a young person because you know that when you have the opportunity to give back, you might have some money in your pocket. You might have some funds and there are things that you can do as you get older,” King said. “You remember what happened when you were younger. That there was someone that was there for you. Hopefully a lot of these young people here today when they get the opportunity and have the opportunity to give back, they’ll go back into their community and do the same thing.”

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