S.T.E.P.S. is one of Food Bank for Westchester's direct-service programs. It addresses the Food Bank's mission statement: "...To lead, engage and educate the public in creating a hunger-free environment."
The S.T.E.P.S. program
was first developed and implemented in 1992 to teach
young mothers using food pantries how to prepare the basic ingredients found in their food pantry bags. Each year, Food Bank for Westchester's S.T.E.P.S. program
helps empower approximately 90 low-income women with children by bolstering
their self-esteem, teaching them new and improved
life skills and encouraging them to take steps toward self-sufficiency.
The program also
incorporates food assistance and nutrition education.
S.T.E.P.S. uses existing
Westchester County community resources and
expertise to help participants reduce their dependency on emergency
food programs by building a foundation of self-reliance and encouraging the first or next "STEPS" toward self-sufficiency. Classes are conducted in both
English and Spanish.
The S.T.E.P.S. series is free-of-charge and consists of 10 meetings held weekly for 10 weeks. Each class meets on the same weekday, between 9:00 am and 2:00 pm. Free childcare is provided at the site, but away from the mothers. The childcare worker is usually a S.T.E.P.S. graduate and, very often, this is her first paid job. Each participant receives a free food-pantry bag to take home each week.
The following barriers to self-sufficiency have been identified in S.T.E.P.S. participants:
- Lack of English proficiency
- Lack of basic education (reading,
- Lack of adequate and affordable childcare
- Lack of transportation
- Lack of adequate housing
- Lack of a support system to encourage
and help in case of emergency
- Lack of self-esteem
- Undiagnosed mental health problems
such as depression
S.T.E.P.S. aims to
help low-income women with children gain control
over various aspects of their lives, including
their money, their family's nutrition, and the
way they raise their children; to increase each participant's
self-esteem; and to connect them in
an effective manner to jobs, job training and
S.T.E.P.S. produces results. It provides the participants
the tools to take steps to break the cycle of
dependency. For the non English-speaking participants,the programmeets all of the above goals and also acclimates
participants to their new surroundings and provides
tools to help them better survive in this new culture.
The program is successful because it is small,
local and sets achievable goals while enhancing each participant's
Our experience indicates that S.T.E.P.S. is an excellent
first step for low-income women into the working/mainstream world.
The majority of S.T.E.P.S. graduates tend to have developed better
coping skills and they continue to forge ahead
despite setbacks. Approximately 70% of S.T.E.P.S
graduates go on to take measurable steps toward self-sufficiency.
As of March 2013, the S.T.E.P.S. program is "on hold." For more information, contact Ferne Bordash manager of Direct Service Programs at Food Bank for Westchester. (914) 909.9619 or email@example.com.