As pandemic hits pockets, New Yorkers line up for free Thanksgiving turkey

People line up to receive free holiday boxes of food ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday in New York
People line up to receive free holiday boxes of food from the Food Bank For New York City ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday, as the global outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, in the Harlem neighborhood of New York, U.S., November 16, 2020.
REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

By Roselle Chen, Reuters

As the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday approaches, New Yorkers struggling to serve up a festive meal lined up with empty shopping carts for help from a hunger-relief organization.

Food Bank For New York City gave out 500 turkeys, canned goods and produce to hundreds of families in the neighborhood of Harlem on Monday. Many had never imagined needing handouts to survive.

“You don’t think of yourself as getting on a line,” said Ruth Crawford through tears, as she and her mother waited to pick up a turkey for the annual family dinner on Nov. 26.

“It’s shocking and it’s sad. You don’t think you’re going to lose your job, but things happen.”

Food banks nationwide are squeezed between short supplies and surging demand from needy families as the coronavirus pandemic has put millions of Americans out of work.

Food Bank for New York City said it was partnering with supermarket chain Stop & Shop to give away 2,000 turkeys over the next two weeks.

“The rates of COVID are rising in the city, and so the need is increasing along with that,” said Leslie Gordon, the charity group’s president and chief executive.

Nearly 2 million New Yorkers do not always know where their next meal is coming from, up from 1.5 million before the pandemic, she noted.

For Linda Vanier, who has lined up at the Harlem food bank for previous Thanksgivings, health risks make this year’s holiday gathering necessarily modest.

“Just me and the grandkids, nobody else, and my son,” she said. “You can’t afford it. And because I’m 75, I can’t afford to get anything. So I’m playing it safe.”

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