Opinion | To Be Hungry in the Middle of the Pandemic


In the best of times, life in New York City can be unforgiving. It was hard enough, working full tilt, to cover rent, child care and food before the pandemic. Now, in the neighborhoods most devastated by the coronavirus, life has become more precarious. And the most elemental human need — food — has become a pressing, urgent concern.

The pandemic is hitting low-income families and people of color — who often work in critical service jobs — the hardest.

Jerome Powell, the head of the Federal Reserve, said that almost 40 percent of Americans earning less than $40,000 a year lost their jobs in March.

Before the pandemic, at least a million families in New York City were already struggling. When schools closed, many children lost their only meal of the day.

Mayor Bill de Blasio estimates that at least two million families are facing food insecurity. “We are dealing with an unprecedented crisis,” he said in an interview in May.

The city’s scores of food banks and soup kitchens are racing to fight hunger. Some have organized food drives and distribution sites to meet the increase in people seeking help.

People line up as early as 5 in the morning and wait as long as six hours at some of the larger distribution sites. Some business groups and grocery stores have also stepped up, organizing distributions of food in all boroughs.

Denise Scaravella, the executive director of Community Help in Park Slope, or CHiPS, a soup kitchen in Brooklyn that had 150 weekly volunteers, closed the site because of the risk of exposure to the virus.

Ms. Scaravella, with two volunteers, now prepares to-go bags with enough meals and snacks — and on occasion, face masks — to hold people over until the following morning. She estimated that the soup kitchen served about 300 meals a day before the pandemic. It is now distributing 700 to 900 meals a day, seven days a week.

At a recent Catholic Charities pop-up food distribution at St. Finbar Catholic Church, in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, Joe Devivo bowed his head and said “God bless you” to each person leaving with bags of food. “Thank you,” some said in appreciation.

By Yunghi Kim

2020-07-04 18:24:36

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