A free box of groceries could not have come at a better time for South Bronx resident Madeline.
“I just lost my job. I have to try to do unemployment,” she explained.
Madeline would not give us her last name. She was one of dozens of people who took home free food from a giveaway in the South Bronx Tuesday. It’s some much-needed help to feed her husband and three kids.
“It is scary, not being able to sleep at night, wondering how the bills are gonna get paid or food for the kids,” Madeline said.
Many who showed up to the giveaway are food insecure, New Yorkers having trouble putting food on the table.
“It’s help to me for eating. I have children, it’s good,” said South Bronx resident Rene Diaz.
Even before the pandemic, more than a million New Yorkers had a hard time affording food, a problem that got worse during COVID because many lost their jobs.
During the height of the pandemic, the not-for-profit City Harvest reported a 38% increase in the number of New Yorkers struggling to feed themselves and their families.
But even now with the recovery and reopening, City Harvest says the need for food has plateaued, but has not dropped.
Almost all of its 400 food pantries and soup kitchens continue to ask for more food, mainly because some of the more vulnerable are taking longer to recover.
“They were hit hardest and they’re not getting their jobs back or not getting as many hours as they may have pre-pandemic,” said City Harvest Agency Operations Manager Seth Cowan.
Even those who are employed again continue to need help while they climb out of financial hole the pandemic put them in.
“It may be that New Yorkers’ families incurred debts while they were out of work that, to make ends meet, our pantries are there continuing to serve,” said Cowan.
City Harvest says food insecurity levels may not drop to pre-pandemic levels until at least next year.
Madeline is trying to stay hopeful she will find a new job. Meanwhile, she’s grateful for the support.
“That’s very important, you know, that they come and help the community because the community does need it,” she said.