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City pols seek $50 million to fund food banks, pantries during COVID-19 crisis

Food distribution continues at a Met Council warehouse. (Photo by Todd Maisel)

Nearly a third of all food banks and pantries have shut down during the coronavirus outbreak — and more will close if the city and state fail to provide them with emergency funds, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson said Friday.

Johnson and other City Council members called on the city and state to provide $50 million toward keeping food banks open and food assistance programs running. The combined funding, according to Met Council, will help provide more than 19 million meals, feeding 2.1 million New Yorkers in need.

“The richest city in the richest nation in the world is on the cusp of a hunger crisis,” Johnson said. He pointed out that 32% of food assistance charities have had to close during the epidemic.

Those that remain open, however, struggle with myriad issues including higher food costs, delayed deliveries and reduced volunteer staff, he added. Some of these issues involving groups such as Met Council, City Harvest and the Bowery Mission were highlighted earlier this week in amNewYork Metro.

“This is an emergency food crisis for vulnerable New Yorkers,” said David Greenfield, CEO of Met Council. “If government doesn’t act, within days, most of New York’s food pantries will close. That is an impending disaster.”

Greenfield pointed out that the crisis threatens homebound seniors who can’t get to a supermarket for food. Many workers who lost their jobs due to the outbreak also struggle to afford food.

“Citymeals on Wheels has delivered 200,000 emergency meals to older New Yorkers across the five boroughs and is now preparing an additional 300,000 emergency meals to meet the growing demand of the city’s most vulnerable population in response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Beth Shapiro, executive director of Citymeals on Wheels. “To address this unprecedented challenge, the city and state must release funds to help ensure the stability of this vital lifeline.”

In addition to seeking emergency funds, Johnson noted, the City Council has also reached out to philanthropic organizations across the city for donations to food banks and assistance programs. 

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