In New York City, food insecurity is on the rise due to the COVID-19 pandemic—by over 44% projects the Food Bank for New York City. That means over 1.6 million New Yorkers. 

“We do something called an intake and that’s where we’re asking people that come into our line for example, ‘how many people are in your household?’” said Janis Robinson, the organization’s vice president of institutions and partnerships. “We ask how many adults, how many seniors, how many children, so we get a sense of how many people within that household are being served by our resources. 

“And then we’re in a position to compare that data year over year. And so what we’ve learned is that the numbers have only gone up in the last few years; COVID, certainly, had a lot to do with the increase in numbers. But then we have seen an increase from last year to this year of at least 10% of people in our lines greater than we had last year.”

The city reports emergency food service use during the pandemic continued to increase among Black New Yorkers while every other racial/ethnic group saw decreases by October 2020. Alongside those findings were accessibility issues. The majority of Black New Yorkers polled perceived an increase in food costs at the start of the pandemic, with a sizable minority saying they struggled to access emergency food services. 

With Thanksgiving around the corner, Robinson says the food bank receives plenty of donations at this time. Additionally, its member agencies are helping New Yorkers celebrate on a full stomach by handing out traditional holiday dinner ingredients. But not everything should be donated. 

“There is a tendency for people to say, ‘oh, I’ve got this canned good that I haven’t eaten in five years, I hate to throw it out, I might as well give it to the food bank.’ We’d rather not have the canned goods that are super expired. And that may have a lot of sodium—we really work to provide the kind of food that we want to eat. So we want healthy, nutritious food donated.”

For those who can’t donate food, financial contributions are encouraged. She also discourages donating sugary drinks and treats.

“We don’t take things like Gatorade, or soda—Coca Cola, Pepsi or those items,” said Robinson. “And then we also don’t take pastries. Because we’re trying to get people healthy, nutritious food. 

“We don’t want to just take the dozen doughnuts that were eaten for the last couple days, and force them upon the community.”

Food Bank for NYC resources available at:
Tandy Lau is a Report for America corps member and writes about public safety for the Amsterdam News. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep him writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift of any amount today by visiting: