On a frigid Monday evening, Harlem residents gathered along West 125th Street to collect a free bright green grocery bag full of food supplies. The event was organized by Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine and Hunts Point Food market to deliver fresh fruits and vegetables to the community since Thanksgiving is right around the corner.

The grocery giveaway had 500 free bags of foods you would need for Thanksgiving dinner, like cranberries and sweet potatoes, inside each.

“There’s still a lot of people, uptown Manhattan and New York City wide, who are struggling economically,” said Levine about the event. 

“There’s still the aftershocks of the pandemic, rising inflation which makes groceries too expensive for some people, rising rents and not to mention thousands of families who have come here as migrants. Homeless shelters which are full. And so we wanted to do our part to help those in need and there are families for whom food is a struggle and to have a nice bag of healthy produce makes a difference,” he continued.

Levine was a former Manhattan councilmember just elected to BP this year. He said that when he was on the city council they had a much smaller food giveaway operation, but were able to go really big this year.

Northern Manhattan Office Director Athena Moore said, “We’re doing a migrant drive right now, we’re helping with food for the holidays. We have other initiatives that are bringing the community together. We want to just do all that we can to help and especially in these times that are difficult, post pandemic and we know that there are so many people who go without and we want everybody to feel like there’s an opportunity for them to be heard and to be fed.” 

Moore’s office is partnering with the New York Immigration Coalition and local community-based organizations to give assistance to many migrants who have been bussed to New York in the last few months. As of now the number of people showing up has dropped. Levine said that the pace of arrivals has dramatically slowed down from six to eight buses a day at the peak. Moore and others are supporting the migrants who are still here with housing and whatever assistance they need.

“Our office really has been helping with collecting donated items, toiletries, clothing, socks. You know, things that we can pass on to those who are in need,” said Moore. “And so the immigrant community has been 100% coming through getting the things that they need.”

Meanwhile, residents looked beyond eager to endure the cold to have free groceries. A few mentioned how helpful it was since food was so “expensive” nowadays.

Longtime NYCHA Grant Houses resident Irene Francis has lived in Harlem for over 40 years. She is originally from White Plains, N.Y. but moved to downstate when she was a teenager. She stood on the line by herself, bundled up and patiently waiting her turn.

“My niece may need to do cooking because I’m actually a [breast] cancer survivor,” said Francis about her Thanksgiving plans. “Being that I was diagnosed last year. So for you to look at me this year and see me, you would never—a lot of people say they would never know, it was rough.” 

She said a free bag of groceries is monumental in this current economy. “The expense of buying things out of the store now has changed so much. This means a lot,” said Francis. 

Ariama C. Long is a Report for America corps member and writes about culture and politics in New York City for The Amsterdam News. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep her writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift of any amount today by visiting:


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