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  • Writer's pictureRealFacts Editorial Team

Urban Edge Strengthens Community Ties by Tackling Food Insecurity

Urban edge food pantry

As reported by Michele Lerner for Nareit, food insecurity became a pressing issue in New York City's five boroughs during the pandemic, and Urban Edge Properties (NYSE: UE) rose to the challenge, offering non-profit organizations crucial storage and distribution space for donated food. These partnerships have endured, reflecting the REIT's ongoing commitment to the communities where it operates.

In March 2020, as the pandemic began to significantly affect real estate owners and tenants, Joseph DeGiorgio Jr., Urban Edge’s senior vice president of asset management, was approached by a Bronx community leader seeking assistance for a food relief initiative. This led to a pivotal meeting between DeGiorgio and Shana McCormick, executive director of the Skyline Charitable Foundation and program director for RAP4Bronx, an organization focused on food insecurity.

Initially, DeGiorgio considered making a monetary donation. However, after understanding the scale of the need, he sought approval from Urban Edge’s CEO, Jeff Olson, to provide the necessary space. Despite uncertainties within the shopping center industry, Olson's approval marked the beginning of a significant partnership.

Urban Edge provided RAP4Bronx with space at Bruckner Commons, a shopping center under phased redevelopment. As spaces were leased, the nonprofit was relocated to other suitable vacant areas, ensuring continuous support.

The Skyline Charitable Foundation, established in 2014 by Skyline Restoration, created RAP4Bronx in 2020. Initially assisting hospitals and laid-off workers, RAP4Bronx soon expanded to support food pantries and community groups, becoming part of World Central Kitchen’s efforts and collaborating with City Harvest, New York’s largest food rescue service. Urban Edge’s donation of space enabled RAP4Bronx to handle significant food donations, including a weekly delivery of 19 pallets from City Harvest.

Since April 2020, RAP4Bronx has distributed over four million pounds of food to more than 45 community groups across the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Queens, serving approximately 4,000 households. McCormick emphasizes the priceless value of in-kind donations like those from Urban Edge, which provide a stable operational base without financial strain.

The successful Urban Edge-RAP4Bronx partnership caught the attention of Rohan Amin, chief product officer at JP Morgan Chase and a Grassroots Grocery board member. Grassroots Grocery, formed to address food insecurity in the Bronx and Harlem, faced logistical challenges in food distribution. Leveraging an existing relationship with Urban Edge, Amin secured space at Gun Hill Commons for Grassroots Grocery, providing parking, storage, and volunteer gathering areas.

Every Saturday, Grassroots Grocery's "Produce Party" distributes over 10,000 pounds of produce to community groups, reaching 1,650 households. The collaboration with Urban Edge facilitates these efforts, underscoring the company's commitment to community welfare.

Urban Edge’s mission extends beyond property development. The company established the "UE Cares" committee to enhance community engagement, generate innovative community support ideas, and explore new local support opportunities. Urban Edge also supports various organizations by providing space and resources, like the Tri Community and Youth Agency in Huntington and a community room in Riverwood Commons, Massachusetts.

Employees participate in volunteer activities and contribute financially to local organizations through payroll deductions matched by the company. Monthly, the UE Cares committee selects beneficiaries for these funds, further embedding community support into the company’s culture.

Urban Edge’s partnership with RAP4Bronx has evolved, offering innovative solutions like a satellite office in a shipping container, funded by a New York State grant, to provide necessary storage and operational space. This ongoing support not only aids RAP4Bronx’s programs but also strengthens their grant applications.

DeGiorgio highlights the importance of using a moral compass in corporate decision-making, praising Urban Edge for fostering community outreach initiatives. Through their sustained efforts, Urban Edge demonstrates that strategic support and creative solutions can significantly impact local communities, particularly in addressing food insecurity.


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