Regina from Queens gets food twice a month from the Queensbridge Mobile Market. The mobile unit gives away food to residents living in NYCHA’s Queensbridge Houses and Ravenswood Houses.
There are six people living in Regina’s home, including four adults who are not working. She said getting food for everyone is hard, especially for the two children living with her.
“I am afraid to go out because of the pandemic, and it’s been hard connecting with the unemployment office,” she said.
Regina’s two children represent the high number of children experiencing hunger due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Food rescue organization City Harvest reports that one in three children in New York City are now food insecure, a 64% increase prior to the pandemic.
The story remains the same for families across the city as longer lines at food banks are seen. With mass job loss from the COVID-19 pandemic, food banks continue to struggle to keep up with the demand. Last year, 75% of food pantries and soup kitchens reported serving more people than in the months leading up to the pandemic. Over 30% reported the number of visitors doubling.
“More than half a million New York City children are struggling to get enough food to eat amid the ongoing pandemic,” said Jilly Stephens, CEO of City Harvest. “Even before the pandemic, more than one in five New York children faced food insecurity. That has surged to more than one in three children today.”
As the school year comes to a close soon, children depending on school meals are trying to figure out what they will do during the summer months. Several corporations in the city are participating in City Harvest’s Share Lunch Fight Hunger campaign to raise money to help feed families experiencing food insecurity during the summer. The campaign will run until May 31.
Last week, good news came to several families when the USDA announced it will allow states to provide Pandemic-EBT to low-income families through the summer. The program will provide approximately $375 to each of 30 million children to help their families purchase food.
“Expanding the Pandemic-EBT program to the summer is a wise and compassionate decision, said Joel Berg, CEO of Hunger Free America. “It will ease child hunger, reduce the financial burden on parents, and create jobs in grocery stores. With programs and policies such as Pandemic-EBT, the child hunger rate in the U.S. will continue to decrease after a year when so many families and children struggled with food insecurity.”
According to nonprofit organization Feeding America, the number of New York City residents facing food insecurity went up by 54% during the COVID-19 pandemic. A lack of funding forced many community food programs to close. City Harvest says it expects to rescue 125% more food for the hungry by the end of its fiscal year in June.
Earlier this year, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced, “Food Forward NYC,” a 10-year food policy plan. Officials say the plan is a more racially and economically equitable food system to address social, economic, health, and environmental challenges.
“The City’s food system impacts the lives of each and every New Yorker. For New Yorkers to thrive, we must have a thriving food system,” said Kate MacKenzie, director of the Mayor’s Office of Food Policy. “Our food system provides jobs to millions of our neighbors, builds community and strengthens relationships, affects our environment, and ensures culturally appropriate nourishment for us all. Food Forward NYC provides a comprehensive and visionary path forward to intentionally create a more equitable, inclusive food environment in the City.”