Roughly 32% of  emergency food programs have already closed in NYC due to the COVID-19 crisis – and many more are in danger of shutting 

NEW YORK, NY — Speaker Corey Johnson, Council Member Mark Treyger, Chair of the Council’s Education Committee, and members of the New York City Council’s Budget & Negotiations Team, along with the leaders of Met Council, City Harvest and other major food security organizations, are calling on the de Blasio administration to release $25 million in emergency funding to struggling food banks and food assistance programs during the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) to halt a looming hunger crisis. The Council is also echoing Albany leaders’ calls for $25 million in state funding for these organizations. 

According to Met Council, the combined $50 million will provide funding for over 19 million meals, which will allow for 2.1 million balanced and healthy food packages each consisting of nine meals per USDA guidelines. The state and city money should be expedited to give the programs immediate relief. More funding will be needed as New York continues to weather this crisis, but this immediate infusion will provide quick relief at a time when our social safety net is severely strained. 

To date, 32% of  emergency food programs, which includes food pantries and soup kitchens, have ceased operations due to lack of supplies and resources, according to Food Bank for NYC. However, the majority are still serving and straining to meet growing demand. 

The Council is also in discussion with many of the city’s leading philanthropic organizations to get private money to food banks and food assistance programs. The Council has a history advocating for food programs to serve the most vulnerable New Yorkers through the city budget process, and can connect worthy groups to philanthropic organizations. Many of the organizations in the Council’s network are in dire need, but not well-known. It is critical that they are not left behind during this unprecedented time. 

The coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic has created a terrible food crisis in New York City. Elderly New Yorkers, homebound individuals, students dependent on school meal plans, and others in need must have reliable food services. The continuity of service by food banks and food pantries is key to keeping New Yorkers from going hungry. Food access groups, both big and small, have told the Council that they are running out of time and resources. The Council will work to make sure that money raised for these groups can go towards their many challenges, including: 

  • Demand: Hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers have lost their jobs in the past few weeks. Food pantries, organizations that do home delivery of food to individuals in need, senior services, and youth service organizations  need more funding to deal with the ongoing surge in demand. Organizations that do food delivery to individuals in need are additionally facing increased demand.
  • Food Shortages and Higher Prices: Wholesale prices for food staples have gone up because of the overwhelming demand caused by coronavirus/COVID-19. In addition, the Council has heard reports of food vendors becoming unreliable, canceling orders, price gouging, and manipulating delivery schedules. This is further exacerbating this criss by causing severe strain on already tight budgets and delivery timelines.
  • Staffing Issues: Many organizations, especially the smaller food pantries, are staffed primarily by volunteers. Many of the volunteers are over 60, which means they must practice the most aggressive forms of social distancing and can no longer be of service. Other volunteers can no longer donate their time because of the myriad of challenges the pandemic has caused in their lives. Organizations need to be able to transition quickly to a paid staff model, which will help out-of-work individuals as well as these organizations and the people they serve. 
  • Changes in operational models: May organizations need to transition to food delivery models – particularly those who serve seniors or people with health challenges vulnerable to COVID-19. They require funding to make the change. 
  • Protective measures: Protecting staff, volunteers and clients requires them to take additional measures to clean and sanitize and observe social distancing.

“The richest city in the richest nation in the world is on the cusp of a hunger crisis. We must act now to quickly get relief to our food providers. This is an emergency and time is of the essence. Undoubtedly we will need more funding in the coming weeks, but it’s imperative that we begin now to stop more of our providers from shutting,” said Council Speaker Corey Johnson.

“As a member of the Council’s budget negotiating team I know firsthand how this Council has championed strengthening our city’s social safety net. Now, in the worst pandemic in over 100 years, we won’t allow that safety net to collapse and compromise the food security of New Yorkers most in need. We will do everything in our power to add as much emergency food assistance as possible to ensure no one goes hungry. No one,” said Council Member Mark Treyger, Chair of the Council’s Education Committee.  

“New York needs to step up for the many food pantries, food banks and other programs that have served thousands of hungry New Yorkers in this time of need. Food pantries and food banks are a lifeline for low-income families, older adults and people with disabilities. For many, these programs mean the difference of access to a hot meal or going to bed hungry each night. Now, NYC’s food banks and pantries need our help. I join Speaker Johnson in calling upon the State and City to provide $50 million in emergency funding to these struggling programs. The time to act is now, and the lives of our city’s families depend on it,” said Council Member Daniel Dromm, Chair of the Council’s Finance Committee.

“We must ensure we do all we can to assist New Yorkers who are struggling the most. Our food pantries do that all the time, and now need our help to continue their mission in this time of crisis. We need to act now to provide emergency funding to increase their capacity during this pandemic,” said Council Majority Leader Laurie Cumbo. 

“Sadly, food insecurity is a reality for many New Yorkers, and the coronavirus pandemic is exacerbating an already dire situation. We can’t let anyone go hungry in our city. I support the Speaker’s call for emergency funding to help increase food assistance during this unprecedented pandemic,” said Council Member Karen Koslowitz.  

“I have already seen across my District the profound effect that COVID-19 has had on food insecurity, with many of our local pantries facing skyrocketing demand and rising food prices, while also seeing less volunteers available to assist in operations. It’s our duty as public servants to ensure everyone has access to food, and I’m proud to join Speaker Johnson in calling for this funding to aid some of our most critical organizations helping to feed New York. Our plan will help thousands of families in need,” said Council Member Carlina Rivera.

“We are taking action as a city to protect New Yorkers from the spread of COVID-19, but we must also continue to provide adequate funding and support for the programs that are providing free meals to seniors, youth, families, NYCHA residents, and other vulnerable populations that have been impacted by this pandemic. I support this plan for emergency relief because I believe it is essential for the city and state to come together to ensure every New Yorker has access to food during this crisis. Thank you Speaker Johnson and my colleagues in the Council for taking action on this,” said Council Member Vanessa Gibson.  

“We have all witnessed how devastating this pandemic has been. Like mine, many communities have struggled with food access for years. COVID-19 has only tripled this need. This emergency infusion of funds is a measure that I support wholeheartedly. Emergency feeding programs have been working hard before COVID-19! As the last line of defense for families in need, it is critical that we provide support to the families of this city,” said Council Member Alicka Ampry-Samuel

“In a so-called ‘good economy,’ thousands of New Yorkers live paycheck to paycheck, sometimes unsure of where their next meal is coming from. Now we are in the midst of an unprecedented crisis, and it is our responsibility to look after the most vulnerable among us. I join Speaker Johnson in calling for emergency funding for our food banks and other food assistance programs to combat food insecurity during this outbreak,” said Council Member Debi Rose

“We are in extraordinarily difficult times and must tend to the most vulnerable in our communities. This pandemic is hurting all parts of the social safety net and this emergency funding is desperately needed to keep struggling food banks afloat,” said Council Member Ritchie Torres.

“This is an emergency food crisis for vulnerable New Yorkers. If government doesn’t act, within days most of New York’s food pantries will close. That is an impending a disaster. Needy homebound seniors literally don’t have access to food. People who have lost their jobs are calling us and begging for food. We have seen a 57% increase this week alone in our crisis cases. After healthcare, food must be our top priority. Speaker Corey Johnson is displaying tremendous leadership with his proposal. We are incredibly grateful to Corey and the New York City Council. As usual, they are leading the way fighting for the most vulnerable New Yorkers,” said David G. Greenfield CEO of Met Council.

“We stand with the City Council on calling for the release of emergency funds to support our city’s anti-hunger response during this public health and economic crisis. From low-income seniors unable to leave their homes to hourly workers missing paychecks and seeking support for the first time in their lives, there has been a surge in demand across our network. It is imperative that our government partners continue supporting the emergency food network so that New Yorkers can put food on the table for themselves and their families during this crisis,” said Nicholas Buess, Associate Director, Mobilization & Policy at Food Bank For New York City. 

“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. Citymeals and other non-profits are stepping up to provide food where it is most needed. To address this unprecedented challenge, the City and state must release funds to help ensure the stability of this vital lifeline, said Beth Shapiro, Executive Director Citymeals on Wheels

“We are on the front lines to keep New Yorkers fed during this public health emergency. We are grateful to the City Council and Speaker Corey Johnson for their support and leadership to ensure we have the resources we need to feed our neighbors,” said Jilly Stephens, CEO of City Harvest.