MEATPACKING DISTRICT, Manhattan (PIX11) -- In a city that has both more billionaires than any other on Earth, as well as the poorest congressional district in the country, in the Bronx, the contrasts at Thanksgiving time are stark.
While many are very thankful this holiday time, the divergence of incomes in the city shows how people are thankful for different things in different ways. Some radically different.
"This is the meal for the one percenter," said Gary Sherry, proprietor of the Old Homestead Steakhouse in the Meatpacking District, as he showed off its premium Thanksgiving dinner of farm-raised organic turkey stuffed with seven pounds of ground Japanese Wagyu filet mignon as its centerpiece.
"It has some of the finest wines in the world," Sherry said, and the dessert will feature "chocolate dipped in gold." The dinner costs $35,000 for four guests, and currently, Old Homestead has reservations for three foursomes, each with their own private butler.
In contrast, six miles north, in the South Bronx, are the offices of Sauti Yetu, a charity for immigrant women and children, predominantly from central and western Africa.
The organization gave free turkeys -- dozens and dozens -- to people who would have had none otherwise. The turkeys were donated to Sauti Yetu by cops. The National Organization of Black Law Enforcement, or NOBLE, and the NYPD donated the turkeys to the charity to give away.
PIX11 News informed Sauti Yetu's executive director, Zeinab Eyega, that there would be a nearly $9,000 per person Thanksgiving dinner at Old Homestead, and she was stunned.
"$9000 could go a long way," she replied. "It could buy milk, it could buy sugar, it could buy butter, it could buy cheese, maybe once in a while buy chicken, or put fish on the table."
She also pointed out that in some parts of the South Bronx, there are family households earning just $9,000 per year. It puts the Old Homestead Thanksgiving dinner in perspective.
Its proprietor pointed out that while his restaurant may have the most expensive Thanksgiving dinner in the country, it also has perspective on the disparities that exist in New York City.
"We give back," said Sherry. "So whatever's left over for the entire restaurant goes to the shelters. [General manager] Luis stops off at 12:00 [with] probably enough to serve 50 to 100 people.
Sherry called the marquee Thanksgiving meal the "dinner for the one percent," and said he was aware of more sobering percentages regarding hunger in New York City, including that 93 percent of food charities have reported a recent increase in demand, according to the New York City Coalition Against Hunger. It also said, in a recent report, that 1 in 6 New Yorkers faces hunger daily, and that the numbers have increased since congressional Republicans cut back SNAP food assistance benefits last year.
Food pantries have made clear that while their needs are now greater than ever because of Snap benefit cuts, there are specific food items that are of particular need, consistently. They include:
-boxes (as opposed to bags, which can easily tear) of rice, potatoes, and macaroni
-low-sugar breakfast cereals, like plain Cheerios or Raisin Bran.
-Instant meals to which water must be added, such as oatmeal or biscuit, since they're easy to make
-Powdered or evaporated milk
-Juice boxes, applesauce containers and granola bars for children
Pantries also note that financial donations are the most helpful. Some pantries are able to purchase four meals for every dollar donated.
In other words, the price of one place at the premium table at Old Homestead Steakhouse on Thanksgiving could feed nearly 36,000 people.
Sherry, the Old Homestead's proprietor, pointed out that most of his patrons on Thursday will have the standard Thanksgiving dinner. "It's $65 per person. $30 for children."