On the Record
Apr 14, 2009 | 20505 views | 0 0 comments | 924 924 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Ed Fowler wasn't born in Ocean Hill. He isn't even from New York City, let alone Brooklyn. But after years of work at the Neighbors Together food pantry on Fulton Street, few people know their local neighborhoods quite like Fowler.

Fowler serves as the executive director of Neighbors Together, which provides lunch and dinner to over 500 Central Brooklyn residents each day.

Fowler said his non-profit organization has become an increasingly important community resource in the past several months, as residents feel the affects of the worst economic crisis in decades.

"In times like these it's more and more people who are falling through the cracks," said Fowler.

Yet the problem of hunger in the city is much older than the current recession. Fowler said his soup kitchen is just one of over 1,000 that serves roughly 1.3 million city residents each year.

"The issue of people not having enough money to buy food is affecting more than one out of every eight people in the city," said Fowler, "but nobody talks about it besides at Christmastime and Thanksgiving."

Fowler has worked to change that since taking over at Neighbors Together.

A native of St. Louis, Fowler was first introduced to the organization - founded by a group of nuns and community organizers in the early 1980's - after graduating from college in 1992, when he accepted a year-long internship at the food pantry.

"I went into it really uncertain and within the first couple of weeks I realized this is what I want to do," said Fowler. "I want to be involved in communities like Ocean Hill that don't have a lot of resources."

After his internship, Fowler worked in the social service field for several years before finally returning to Neighbors Together as executive director in 2002. Since then, the organization has moved to a new, much larger office and community space and now serves even more people today than ever before.

In addition to providing residents with free food, Neighbors Together, which receives a combination of public and private funding, also runs education, job training, and counseling services in partnership with other Central Brooklyn organizations.

"Neighbors Together is really a base for a lot of people in the neighborhood," said Fowler. "It's a place where people can come anytime they have a need."

Though things have improved since he first worked there in the early 90's, Fowler said the same basic problems still persist - meaning there's still a long way to go to eradicating hunger in Brooklyn and across the city.

"The system that we have in place to help people gain access to the resources of society are just not working," said Fowler. "I realized there was something wrong and I wanted to be a part of changing that. People deserve better."

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