Union Settlement Association and Dr. Melony Samuels Receive Inaugural Joan H. Tisch Community Health Prize

June 23, 2011 | Hunter College

Hunter College President Jennifer J. Raab has announced that the Union Settlement Association and Dr. Melony Samuels of Bed-Stuy Campaign Against Hunger are the recipients of the inaugural Joan H. Tisch Community Health Prize. The newly established prize will be administered by the Hunter College Foundation and is earmarked for a not-for-profit organization and individual for distinguished accomplishment in the field of urban public health.

The winners were chosen by a committee composed of Hunter College faculty and representatives from the health policy and advocacy communities and will each receive a prize of $10,000.

“Congratulations to Union Settlement Association and Dr. Samuels for their inspiring work in building healthy communities in New York City,” said Laurie M. Tisch, president of the Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund and a contributor to the grant. “Through their innovative programs and services, they have demonstrated a commitment to addressing urgent needs and creating access and opportunity in Bedford-Stuyvesant and East Harlem.”

Union Settlement Association, which seeks to meet the needs of 13,000 children and families, has been serving the East Harlem community for more than 116 years. It works in partnership with a range of health agencies, research institutions, universities and hospitals, and offers programs ranging from child care, Head Start and after school programs for youth to senior and mental health services.

“I want to thank the Tisch family and Hunter College for this wonderful prize, and for recognizing Union Settlement’s longstanding work in addressing urban public health issues. We are both honored and humbled to be one of the inaugural recipients of this award,” said David Nocenti, Executive Director of Union Settlement Association. “I also want to thank the many organizations we work with on these issues. Over the years we have learned that building coalitions of academic, research and community organizations is the best way to find creative solutions to public health problems, and we are committed to continuing these joint efforts to address the needs of East Harlem and other underserved communities.”

One of Union Settlement’s leading achievements is its pioneering work to reduce childhood asthma, a longtime scourge in East Harlem. The Association is also a leader among local agencies in its efforts to reduce the health disparities faced by East Harlem families, who suffer from disproportionally high rates of diabetes, heart disease, obesity and HIV/AIDS.

Among the institutions Union Settlement has partnered with are Mt. Sinai School of Medicine, Metropolitan Hospital, New York Academy of Medicine, Hunter College School of Social Work and Columbia University.

Dr. Melony Samuels is the founder and executive director of Bed-Stuy Campaign Against Hunger, which provides food and social services to more than 10,000 needy New Yorkers each month. In 1998, Samuels launched a small emergency food program, and eight years later she moved the much-expanded operation to larger quarters. Under her leadership, the program had grown into a supermarket-style center, the first of its kind in Brooklyn, which last year served approximately 132,000 clients.

“I deeply appreciate the selection committee, the Tisch family and the people at Hunter College for providing us with this tremendous recognition,” said Dr. Samuels. “All of the people involved with our organization share this tribute, including our hard-working staff and volunteers, the organizations that help us put food on our shelves and most of all, the children, seniors and adults who depend on us for nutritional support.”

The Campaign’s mission is to end hunger by distributing food and empowering families through information and support, which will give both strength and dignity to the community. Through Dr. Samuels’ efforts, she has introduced innovative educational programs that range from cooking classes to a community garden to improve clients’ health and combat obesity.

“The nomination narratives and references describing the meaningful public health work engaged in by Union Settlement and Dr. Samuels were truly inspiring,” said Hunter President Raab. “Hunter College, through the Joan H. Tisch Community Health Prize, is proud and honored to recognize their innovative programs and longstanding commitment to solving urban health challenges.”

The Joan H. Tisch Community Health Prize is a component of the Joan H. Tisch Legacy Project, based at Hunter College and made possible with a five-year grant of over $1 million from her children, Steven Tisch, Laurie M. Tisch, and Jonathan and Lizzie Tisch. The other components are the Joan H. Tisch Distinguished Fellowship in Public Health and the Joan H. Tisch Public Health Forum.