Charities Ramp Up Efforts to Feed People During the Pandemic
As COVID-19 shuts down schools, senior centers, restaurants and more, those who are food insecure, low income, homeless, or disabled have become even more vulnerable to hunger and malnutrition. While lawmakers struggle to pass legislation to support families in need, many nonprofits, charities, and cities are stepping up their efforts to ensure that no one falls through the cracks. Here are some resources that may be helpful for people looking for assistance during this uncertain time.
Share Our Strength
Share Our Strength, a national nonprofit working to end hunger and poverty in the U.S. and abroad, announced emergency grants to support local school districts and nonprofit organizations in their efforts to ensure kids get the nutritious food they need. “We are excited to be able to support organizations across the country,” said Rachel Sabella, Director, of Share our Strength’s No Kid Hungry New York program.” Any organization can simply apply for a grant here.
Rethink, a New York City-based non-profit working to recover nutritious excess food to provide low or no-cost meals to New York City families in need, has shifted gears to focus on the coronavirus crisis. In addition to its Restaurant Response Program, it has partnered with God’s Love We Deliver to deliver the meals it prepares in its Brooklyn Navy Yard-based culinary center. A second partnership with José Andrés’ World Kitchen is in the works.
José Andrés World Kitchen
José Andrés and the World Central Kitchen and Revolution Foods have partnered with New York State Assembly Member Michael Blake to feed Bronxites and New Yorkers in the midst of the Coronavirus Pandemic. Beginning Tuesday, March 17, WCK will distribute thousands of fresh, individually packaged grab-and-go meals to local families across the Bronx.
The meals will be distributed to anyone who needs a meal at designated sites during lunchtime. They will be fresh meals, ready to heat at home. The team estimates that they will be able to serve at least 5,000 daily meals, while exercising social distancing. “Providing a meal and some level of hope during this pandemic is how together we continue Building a Better Bronx," said New York State Assembly Member Michael Blake in the press release.
The COVID-19 Food Hub
The COVID-19 Food-Hub was organized by the nonprofit Food Education Fund, and is based out of Food and Finance High School. They are working to create a space to share resources on available food sources for families, collect information on possible food donations, and share resources created by partner organizations.
Red Rabbit is delivering emergency grab-and-go meals to daycares, schools, and community organizations during the coronavirus crisis. They are on track and able to deliver up to 15,000 daily meals and to up to 200 sites daily (minimum of 100 lunches per delivery). For any school, daycare, or community organization facing service disruptions, please reach out. More information can be found here.
Stemming College Food Insecurity: The Hope Center
Colleges and universities across the United States and around the world are scrambling to keep their students, faculty, and staff healthy, safe, and educated during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice, which conducts action research and fights for the resources and supports to help college students succeed, has been at the forefront of ensuring that all college students remain food secure.
The Hope Center has created an impressive guide for all colleges with tips and resources to help them manage escalating food insecurity in college communities.
In addition to providing guidance and resources to college administrators, the Hope Center has partnered with the nonprofit Believe in Students to create two emergency funds for students across the country. FAST Funds are emergency funds given to faculty members to distribute to students in need on campuses around the country (there are 18 across the country at this time, and ten more are slated to open in the coming weeks). If a student attends a college with a FAST Fund on site, they can receive immediate monetary relief there. To find out if your school has a FAST Fund, please visit TheFastFund.org
For students without a FAST Fund on campus, Believe in Students has also set up a student relief fund which is taking donations now and distributing them to support students facing hunger and homelessness as a result of COVID-19. Students can access counselors, receive support for navigating SNAP, and assistance in locating food pantries here.
The Hope Center’s Founding Director Sara Goldrick-Rab emphasizes that now is the time to call your representatives to implore Congress to pass Senator Patty Murray’s Supporting Students in Response to Coronavirus Act which includes a $1.2 billion aid fund for college students.
Local Community Colleges
In Brooklyn, the Kingsborough Community College “Single Stop” continues to serve the community in need. According to Hattie Elmore, MSW, Academic Student Support Program Director, their food pantry is currently open to students and the community. “Within the Single Stop office students still have access to snacks, soups, hot and cold beverages,” she says. “As long as the Food Bank can deliver, we will continue to hand out fruit twice a month.” Single Stop also has listings to every food pantry in every neighborhood within the five boroughs. The listing also includes senior soup kitchens.
The City of New York
New York City public schools serve about one million meals each normal school day, while the City’s 246 senior centers serve about 27,000 meals per day. Before this crisis, more than one million New York City residents lived in food insecure homes, unable to afford an adequate supply of food. The COVID-19 crisis promises to escalate these numbers even more.
Kate MacKenzie, Director of the Mayor’s Office on Food Policy, reports that New York City is providing home-delivered meals for COVID-vulnerable population (seniors), as well as grab-and-go meals at Senior Centers this week. She says that within a week all meals will be transitioned to home delivery to decrease risk of infection. “All seniors in the net of senior services through DIFTA (the Department for the Aging) will have home delivered meals,” she said. In addition, other COVID-vulnerable individuals, such as those with HIV and AIDS or living in supportive housing will have home delivered meals.
Perhaps the biggest safety net for food insecure families is the Office of Food and Nutrition Services, the arm of the New York City Department of Education charged with feeding 1.1 million school children breakfast and lunch (for free) every day. Now that schools are closed until April 20th, OFNS has been working around the clock to ensure that all students have access to school meals.
For the week of March 16th, every school will be providing breakfast and lunch from 7:30 a.m. until 1:30 p.m. Beginning next week (March 23), OFNS will move towards a summer program model with one or two schools in each neighborhood providing two meals a day from 7:30 to 1:30 p.m. All schools serving meals will be listed on the DOE website and on 311.
In addition to schools (where the age is 21 and under to access school meals), the city will be creating grab and go sites for anyone (any age) through NYCHA centers, Recreation Centers and the like. Stay tuned for more updates.
Table to Table, New Jersey
Table to Table is a community-based food rescue program that collects prepared and perishable food that would otherwise be wasted and delivers it to organizations serving the hungry in the Bergen, Essex, Hudson, and Passaic counties of New Jersey. Executive director Ilene Isaacs reports that their drivers remain on their routes, picking up whatever supermarket food is still available but are focusing mostly on the large, palletized donations of fresh produce from food distributors.
Like many charities working in this space, social distancing for clients is paramount. For Table to Table, their goal is to be able to drop pallets of the food in large open areas—parking lots, playgrounds, and the like.
Isaacs says for now, their mass distribution plan seems to be working, and she adds that when individuals call looking for food, she tries to align them with one of the larger sites we are serving. “In this new reality, we are armed with our basic operations plan,” says Isaacs. “But every day there are some new factors that need to be accommodated and worked into the plan. Given that we are a food rescue program and every day must deal with an amount of uncertainty in what we will receive and be able to distribute to the people who are waiting for our trucks to arrive, we are able to navigate this new normal.”
Isaacs emphasizes that one of their biggest issues right now is a financial one. “Typically spring is the time when we raise a good portion of our operating funds through our food and wine events,” she says. “Obviously they have to be cancelled/postponed for this and perhaps next season, while our expenses remain the same.” Click here to donate to Table to Table. Every dollar you donate provides enough fresh food for ten healthy meals.
City Harvest, New York City
City Harvest’s trucks will continue to be on the road, rescuing and delivering food. Their nine Mobile Markets will maintain their current schedule and continue to distribute free, fresh produce to communities across the city. City Harvest has adjusted how they operate in accordance with social distancing and they will be distributing pre-packed food. Their staff and volunteers have also adjusted how they operate and are working hard to repack thousands of pounds of shelf-stable food and produce, which will be distributed to community food programs, and at their Mobile Markets. With news that New York City public schools have closed, they are also working to bring more food to agencies that service a large number of families and children. “We are working hard to make sure everyone in New York City has food during this time,” saysCOO, Jen McLean.
Food Bank of NY
Amid mounting concerns around the COVID-19 public health crisis, Food Bank For New York City is anticipating an extreme rise in need for food and resources in the coming weeks. “As workers are missing paychecks, we’re bracing for greater demand on the emergency food network,” said Lisa Hines-Johnson, Chief Operating Officer of Food Bank For New York City. “Our ability to impact food insecurity on the frontlines depends on our ability to continue operations. This is an unprecedented time and we need everyone’s help to ensure resources are getting to those who need them the most.”
Food Bank’s Bronx warehouse remains open and trucks are on the road to ensure food is delivered to its network of over 1,000 soup kitchens and food pantries across the city.
Food Bank’s Community Kitchen and Food Pantry in Harlem is temporarily suspending in-house activities at its senior program, and to-go meals and pre-packaged pantry bags will replace daily sit-down meal service and client-choice pantry service in order to minimize the risk of exposure for clients.
For now, the best way to help fuel their emergency response is to donate to provide resources; every $1 provides 5 meals.
Food Banks Across the Country
The Feeding America nationwide network of food banks secures and distributes 4.3 billion meals each year through food pantries and meal programs throughout the United States; it is the nation’s largest domestic hunger-relief organization with a network of 200 member food banks across the country.
This week, Feeding America established a $2.65 million COVID-19 Response Fund to help food banks across the country as they support communities impacted by the pandemic. The fund will enable food banks to secure the resources they need to serve the most vulnerable members of the community. It will also support food- and fund-raising efforts, including building an inventory of emergency food boxes to be distributed throughout the network.
“Our first priority is the millions of individuals, families and seniors who rely on food banks for help,” said Feeding America CEO Claire Babineaux-Fontenot in a press release. “Our member food banks are always there to help throughout the year and in times of disaster. This fund will advance their ability to respond efficiently and effectively in their communities so that food is not added to the list of worries for families during this pandemic.” Babineaux-Fontenot added, “We cannot do it alone.”
In addition to raising funds to continue to support anti-hunger work, Food Banks have also had to contend with logistics including deep cleanings, measures to minimize social contact and calls for extra donations.
Open-air, drive-through and grab-and-go are becoming increasingly popular across the country. The Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana, for example, has morphed into a drive-through distribution site, which feeds 5,000 to 6,000 people per month. Rather than come into a waiting room that can hold up to 200 or so people, clients instead are proceeding through a cleaned-out, drive-through garage where volunteers can load up cars, three at a time.
At Snohomish Community Food Bank, located in the county next to the one in Washington State where the first U.S. coronavirus case was reported, clients place their orders via a clipboarded order form (translated into three languages). Once the order is filled by volunteers, clients can pick it up or have it delivered to their cars.
The Houston Food Bank is assembling a few thousand “quarantine kits” for people without resources who may be forced to stay home.
While all these considerations may be important, the most critical need is to ensure that families have continuity and that the flow of charitable food is kept going. The best way to do this is to donate to your local food bank, or to Feeding America.
Lovin' Spoonfuls’, a food rescue and distribution nonprofit in Massachusetts, is continuing efforts to provide emergency food relief throughout Greater Boston, MetroWest, and Hampden County. In addition to their traditional food rescue and distribution efforts, they have employed responsive procedures to address the city and state restaurant closures.
For Healthcare Workers
As the industry continues to adapt to all of these state-mandated closures and regulations, IGC Hospitality has launched a program to ensure that out-of-work hospitality workers don't go hungry. Family Meal is an initiative launching March 18 that will provide free meals to anyone in the industry.
IGC set up a Gofundme page where they are collecting donations to cover the cost of these meals. Each meal costs approximately $6, so just $100 will provide 16 meals for their fellow hospitality industry colleagues. Last night, they raised more than $15,000 to provide free meals for hospitality workers.
“These are people who have dedicated their lives to taking care of others. Now, we need your help to take care of them,” says Terence Tubridy, owner of IGC Hospitality. With so many unknowns right now, a hot meal is one less thing for them to worry about! I'd love your help getting the word out to both those who may want to donate and those who may want a hot meal.”
Today is the first day those meals will be available for pickup. The available meal on their Instagram page (@igchospitality) daily at 10:30 a.m., and they'll collecting orders for same-day meal pickup until 12 p.m. Anyone interested in a free family meal can submit their order through this form, and orders will be available for pickup at Parker & Quinn (64 West 39th Street) from 12:30-7 p.m. daily.
For Cancer Patients
Many cancer patients are staying home and not getting access to the medical nutrition support they need. Savor Health is currently offering free access to their “Intelligent Nutrition Assistant” chat bot so that cancer patients can get personalized, evidence-based nutrition and symptom management support “on demand.” Please share this page to access the advice of oncology-credentialed medical experts.
Citymeals on Wheels
Citymeals is working with partners across the five boroughs, including the New York City Department for the Aging, to support the City’s response to the coronavirus. As the designated emergency responder for the city’s seniors, they’re working to ensure older New Yorkers have nourishing meals during this public health crisis.
While the city’s senior centers are closed, home-delivered meal programs continue at this time. These meals are essential for the homebound elderly, many of whom live on just one meal a day. The average age of our meal recipients is 80, the majority live alone, and many have outlived family and friends.
In a press release Citymeals reports that by end of day Thursday, March 19, Citymeals will have packed and delivered 150,000 emergency meals for older New Yorkers in need. These are nutritious, shelf-stable meals that include pre-cooked organic brown rice, pouches of salmon, vegetables, applesauce, and treats like low-sugar oatmeal cookies and tea and coffee. We will then begin preparation of an additional 100,000 emergency meals.
Citymeals reports that it is taking every precaution with our staff and volunteers to ensure best practices are followed, as established by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and Centers for Disease Control. They are practicing social distancing and have directed all volunteers with our Friendly Visiting program to connect with meal recipients over the phone to reduce possible transmission of the virus.
To donate to support Citymeals’ emergency response please visit citymeals.org. All of the public contributions will go to the preparation and delivery of meals.
The International Rescue Committee of NY and NJ
The International Rescue Committee of NY and NJ has a dedicated Emergency Fund which serves critical needs like housing and medical care. Under COVID-19 conditions, the Emergency Fund is addressing food insecurity, employment gaps, and safety. The fund empowers IRC caseworkers to address client needs day to day. These monies can be used to help those who have been laid off or are experiencing social service delays, and most importantly—put food on the table and keep a roof over their heads. Donate to the Emergency Fund here.