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Salvaging Snowmaggedon’s bounty

Brooklynite starts social media movement to donate leftovers to charity

As Winter Storm Juno menaced toward the city on Monday, New Yorkers ransacked area supermarkets, stocking up on milk, eggs, bread and other essentials in case the big one hit.

As we know, the blizzard was a bust. And Brooklyn resident Kristine Michelsen-Correa is hoping to turn the collective buyer’s remorse into more donations for local food banks and soup kitchens.

Michelsen-Correa, 30, decided to launch blizzardleftovers.com on Tuesday after she realized she and many New Yorkers had bought much more food than necessary for the less than 10 inches of snow that ended up falling.

Michelsen-Correa, who lives in Cobble Hill, said she got swept up in the pre-storm hype, as officials shut down roads and mass transit, and hit small markets in her neighborhood on Monday evening to stock up.

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“I was imagining all the things I could make in my apartment with my boyfriend – soup, pasta, if we had time other dishes I’ve been wanting to try. I think I envisioned the storm lasting a few days longer than it actually was,” said Michelsen-Correa.

“I woke up on Tuesday and I walked into the kitchen, without drinking coffee, looked outside and had a moment of ‘What was I thinking’?” Michelsen-Correa said. “I had coffee, and started thinking ‘I need to get rid of this.’”

Though she hasn’t done volunteer work with food banks before, Michelsen-Correa said she was inspired to go beyond getting rid of her leftovers, she wanted to get others on board.

“People tend to give during the holidays, then taper off in January and the rest of the winter months,” Michelsen-Correa said. “It’s a great time to get New Yorkers excited, and let them know food pantries are still in need.”

By Tuesday evening, Michelsen-Correa assembled links on the site that points New Yorkers in the right direction on where to donate. Michelsen-Correa, who is head of community at language learning site Duolingo, said the technology behind a lot of city sites to locate donation sites “isn’t that great,” so she started picking up the phone and calling around for locations that accept donations from individuals.

By Tuesday evening, the site was being retweeted, and Michelsen-Correa spent Wednesday balancing work and getting the word out.

“On social media, you can be one person sitting in an apartment with an idea and throw something up,” Michelsen-Correa said. “If you reach out to the right people, and have an idea that moves someone to share, then you can reach people you’ll never be able to in your day-to day life.”

Chris Hook, a pastor’s assistant at downtown Brooklyn’s Recovery House of Worship, where Michelsen-Correa said she plans to donate food, said the church relies on small donations from individuals to keep their food pantry stocked and no donation is too small.

“We have people who are cleaning out their cabinets of canned goods and just bring them by. We stockpile it… we depend on them,” Hook said.

“It’s amazing,” Hook said of the #blizzardleftovers campaign. “Anything that can raise awareness for what we’re doing by word of mouth, and put food on someone’s table. Social media is the word of mouth of today.”

According to the Food Bank for New York City, 1.4 million people of New Yorkers are food insecure, and more than 1.7 million in the city receive food stamps.

Lisa Hines-Johnson, Food Bank's chief operating officer, said her organization and others are coming off of the holiday peak when donations are up.

“I think it’s great, good for her,” Hines-Johnson said of #blizzardleftovers. “People forget it could be their next door neighbor who is struggling.”

 
 
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