Mariner’s Harbor is a neighborhood situated at the northwestern tip of Staten Island where a network of tight-knit community-based organizations come together to support local residents. One such organization, United Activities Unlimited (UAU), operates community centers in New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) developments throughout Staten Island, including one at Mariner’s Harbor Cornerstone where TSC currently provides our Cooks for Health Elementary program. Also operating within this community are Green City Force (GCF), a community organization whose mission is to train young leaders to power a green and inclusive economy through service, and Forest Ave ComeUnity Fridge, a food pantry dedicated to addressing food access and insecurity. Thanks to the efforts of these organizations, residents of this often overlooked and under-resourced community in Staten Island have access to remarkable educational opportunities focused on mutual aid, the ecosystem, and nutrition. According to TSC Staten Island Programs Coordinator, Sarah Kabalkin, “this creates a fully rounded community ecosystem; this is what makes this community so special!”

While working with both GCF and ComeUnity Fridge to expand food access initiatives in the area, Sarah recognized an opportunity to bring TSC’s nutrition-focused programs to the youth at UAU Mariner’s Harbor, which sits right across the street from the ComeUnity Fridge. TSC began partnering with UAU Mariner’s Harbor Cornerstone during the peak of the pandemic to address neighborhood food insecurity. Today, Mariner’s Harbor Cornerstone enrolls 16 students in each TSC Cooks for Health Elementary class. The small class size creates an intimate learning experience that allows for students to have a voice in what recipes they get to test out. Sarah fondly remembers making ramen, flavored popcorn, and the viral Grimace shake trending on TikTok with the elementary class; all student requests! Amarii Smith, UAU’s Mariner’s Harbor Cornerstone Director, and Franklin Jackson, Assistant Program Director, work closely with TSC educators and engage with each of the students during our programs.

In addition to our regular TSC curriculum, students at Mariner’s Harbor Cornerstone have the unique opportunity of visiting the nearby GCF community farm, where they can learn about composting, gardening, and seasonality through hands-on activities with GCF gardeners. All produce scraps from TSC classes also get composted at the GCF farm, and leftover groceries from GCF classes are brought over to the Forest Ave ComeUnity fridge. It is a fully rounded community ecosystem.

Thanks to funding from The Staten Island Foundation, The New York Community Trust, and New York City Council Member Kamillah Hanks, our program participants in Mariner’s Harbor are able to explore fun and nutritious culinary techniques as well as agricultural practices such as gardening and composting. The Sylvia Center will continue to empower young individuals and families, address neighborhood problems through educational initiatives, and build long-lasting community partnerships in Mariner’s Harbor.