As Jemmie Davis handed out bags of pineapple, lettuce and other fresh produce, he couldn’t help but have mixed feelings about the ongoing fight against food insecurity in New York City.
Volunteering for the Food Bank for New York City, Davis stood outside Elmhurst Hospital last week distributing bags of healthy food for over 500 families in need.
“The need has definitely increased, especially in New York City because the pandemic caused a lot of people to lose their jobs, so you’ll see people you normally wouldn’t see,” said Davis. “It’s unfortunate that a lot of people are still out of work. They need as much help as they can get.”
Janis Robinson, vice president of Institutional Giving and Partnerships for Food Bank, spoke to the need of supplying soup kitchens and food pantries around the city during the last 18 months.
“The pandemic is still very much alive, sadly,” said Robinson. “The need has increased 44 percent. That’s 1.6 million New Yorkers who are in need of our support.”
Among the food Robinson was helping to distribute were shelf-stable products like pasta, beans and rice, as well as bags of feminine hygiene products.
Food Bank has been working to combat food insecurity in the five boroughs for over 36 years and distributes food to over 1,000 charities citywide.
Elmhurst Hospital CEO Helen Arteaga said the large turnout highlights the importance and need to feed a community.
“I think one of the things that the pandemic showed us is that food scarcity and food shortages are not something new,” said Arteaga. “It’s a health disparity issue and COVID-19 brought it up to the front of everything.”
With each bag of fresh food valued at $25, Arteaga says the food distribution is a way for families to use their food stamps and WIC checks for extra food. As healthier eating options tend to cost more, Food Bank works to distribute nutritious food.
“Why should the poor be limited on what they eat? For me, this is a great opportunity to give that extra support,” said Arteaga. “Health, food and nutrition are all kind of combined. If you take your medication on an empty stomach, you’re not going to feel so hot. But if you take your medication with some oatmeal, some pineapple and some vegetables, your stomach will feel better .”