Because of volunteers, our partners at the Kings Bay Y Pantry have been able to almost double the amount of people they feed each month. They went from serving 500 people a month to serving 800 people because of the power of service. Ilana Ascher was a critical part of this change through her work with Repair the World NYC. “I didn’t grow up volunteering. When I applied for the Repair the World Fellowship, my focus was on social justice. I now see how service plays a vital role in pursuing justice, which is a value I am incredibly passionate about,” said Ilana. “I quickly realized that if I was going to ‘walk the walk’ when it came to social justice, I was going to have to strengthen my connection to service.”

Now in her second year as a Repair the World fellow, Ilana works closely on the intersections of food justice and volunteering, with her service partners, Hunger Free America and Kings Bay Y Pantry. “I am amazed by the growth of not only myself, but of the organizations we work with since I started serving with them,” said Ilana as she reflected on the past year. “Working with Hunger Free America has taught me about how severe food insecurity in the city is and the importance of programs like SNAP and other food access resources,” said Ilana. “I’m connecting community members to critical information about food access programs and I train people every week on how to ensure the local community has access to these important programs through phone banking.”

When thinking back on past training sessions she hosted, Ilana is proud of the reach the programs have in the community. “I didn’t know much about SNAP or other programs like it and I didn’t know how I was going to get those resources out to people who need them,” said Ilana. “The more I trained people and immersed myself in the work the easier it became. I didn’t just spend a few hours learning about SNAP, for me, making sure the information was equitably accessible was an integral piece to serving my community.”

“I’ve noticed that there are groups of volunteers that serve consistently. It’s an amazing thing to see. We’re trusted by our service partners and I believe that our volunteers sense that and as a result are more willing to come back and volunteer.”

Ilana Ascher is a senior fellow with Repair the World, where she recently completed her first year living and working in Harlem. Ilana has become a part of the Jewish community in New York City and looks forward to continuing to strengthen these relationships. Additionally, through working closely with the community and spending time at organizations such as Hunger Free America and East Harlem Tutorial Program, Ilana has learned so much more about New York City and the inequity and severity of issues such as food justice and racial justice (as well as their intersection) in the city. Through living in Harlem, Ilana has learned more about how gentrification affects neighborhoods and how her own presence has a tangible impact that can be harmful. She hopes to use this experience to continue to work responsibly in New York City, and during her additional year at Repair, she is working to fight against systemic issues such as anti-black racism that are exacerbated through gentrification.