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Op-Ed: Hunger Can’t Wait!

Photo Provided By Julie Won

Dec. 23, 2020 By Julie Won and Jenny Low

The holiday season is here, and in this extraordinary and challenging year, we’re finding ways to safely celebrate. We’re getting together with family over Zoom, having small, socially-distant outdoor gatherings, or simply sharing a meal with those we live with.

As we spend time with loved ones — however we are able — it’s more important than ever that we support our fellow New Yorkers who don’t know where their next meal is coming from. And right now, that’s true for an astonishing and unacceptable number of our neighbors.

Like many issues facing our city’s most vulnerable residents, the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated a long-standing crisis of food insecurity in this city. Before the pandemic, nearly 1.2 million New Yorkers were experiencing food insecurity, including one in five of the city’s children — this was completely unacceptable, and it’s only gotten worse in the months since.

As people face unemployment, uncertainty, and a dearth of real leadership at every level of government, the number of food insecure New Yorkers has risen to around two million people or more. A study by Hunger Free America shows that 38 percent of parents reported eating smaller meals or skipping them entirely for their children at the beginning of the pandemic because they did not have enough money to make ends meet.

We’ve become acquainted with the images paired with this disparity: miles of cars lined up for a box of groceries, people wrapped around the block waiting hours for meals.

This is a horrifying but all-too-common reality for our neighbors, and it’s incumbent upon our City and State leaders to take bold and immediate action to address this crisis. No one should have to choose between feeding their family and paying rent.

Not long after the pandemic began, mutual aid groups started to pop up all over the city, with New Yorkers stepping up to support their neighbors, deliver meals and groceries to those who couldn’t leave their apartments, share resources, and cover bills and medical costs for those struggling. It has been incredible to see the power and strength of community come through in trying times.

In our communities in Lower Manhattan and Western Queens, we have been lucky to work with Rethink Food, a nonprofit dedicated to getting healthy meals to the food insecure. Rethink does the important work of empowering restaurants to nourish the communities they work in, cut down on food waste, and deliver nutritious meals. In Chinatown and the Lower East Side, we’ve been able to volunteer since the early days of the pandemic to deliver more than 800,000 healthy, culturally-sensitive meals to seniors and those in need. In Western Queens, we have worked with Rethink Food to distribute meals in Astoria and Long Island City.

But New Yorkers shouldn’t have to bear the brunt of our city’s broken social safety net. It’s true that the City has led a massive effort to address hunger since the start of the pandemic by working with anti-hunger organizations. But the City was not prepared for a crisis of this scale, the stop-gap measures haven’t been enough, and people are suffering.

We need to use every tool in our arsenal to get relief to those who are struggling and ensure that no one goes hungry. And our efforts have to be centered around our values: that every person has the right to free, healthy, culturally-sensitive meals and should be treated with dignity and respect.

That starts with expanding our city’s food safety net and capacity to feed those facing hunger. We need leaders who will unapologetically fight to expand SNAP benefits and reduce barriers for those who are eligible for the program. We should allow SNAP recipients to use EBT cards to purchase meals at restaurants during the pandemic, which will help bolster local businesses. Supporting programs like Health Bucks through GrowNYC will go a long way in bolstering local farmers as our economy continues to struggle and allowing families to prepare meals of their own choice. The City must do intentional outreach to every corner of our communities to ensure that families know about take-out and community meals distributed at their schools, regardless of whether they are learning remotely.

We’re facing so many enormous challenges this year, but one thing is clear: we can’t allow any of our neighbors to go hungry.

  • * This op-ed is written by Julie Won, a candidate for City Council District 26 in Queens and Jenny Low, a candidate for City Council District 1 in Manhattan.

email the author: [email protected]

50 Comments

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Help someone.com

I have hired Home Depot parking lot handymen for years. I started hiring one regularly starting three years ago and recommended him to neighbors. I paid him $20 per hour at first and increased it without asking to $30 to $40 an hour. I hired no one starting with the pandemic. In October the man called me looking for work. I met him at our place telling him that I would not have any non-immediate family in my home at present. I thought of his family, a nail woman and a five year old daughter. I immediately gave him $400. The next month I gave him $400 again. On Christmas Eve I called him. He came over. We gave him $500. I will do this and more as often as I can. Thank God I can help. I have been helped in years past when I was unemployed. I give the lady who picks up the bottles $20 or so every other month. I just ask yourself how you could help someone else. How about flipping a $50 or so to the take out waitress who didn’t work for three months. These are not normal times. But, if you can, please do something. Yes $400 or $500 is big, but I must do it. Thanks.

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Katherine

Bravo for shining a light on this. Not enough people are talking about the fact that our neighbors and friends are going hungry.

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Mariana

Hey no shame, I went from working full-time to 23hrs a week. No unemployment or anything. I am very grateful for my local food bank and people that donate to make it possible.

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no jobs, no wall, no economy

Other than completely crashing the entire economy, how is this Trump’s fault?

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David

Maybe instead of promising funding for and turning park land into dog runs our local elects should focus on growing food! Be safe.

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Stockholm Syndrome (not the people's fault)

I feel really bad for people in need during this tough time. Let’s help in anyway possible if able.

But thank our government leaders creating more misery to make us more reliant upon them. Like addiction.

Other states are doing better than New York in every way.

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Bill

Best year of my life. New job, more money, made tons of money in stock market. Great year for me. People need to prepare better and stop whining about their misfortunes.

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Nunya

When businesses go under and careers disappear overnight it’s not that easy. Most people aren’t prepared for a pandemic. Have some empathy, don’t be a villain.

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Tamra

This is nothing new. Its always been like this for many black and brown people in NYC. Now that whites are going hungry in this city all of a sudden officials start panicking and caring.

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Anonymous

One of the more disgusting comments I’ve read. There are many poor whites throughout NYS and this city that struggled before COVID was even an issue. To perpetuate this false narrative that all whites are well off and all POC are victims is dangerous. When did openly bring prejudice against whites become acceptable? Why is hate never ok unless it’s against a person of European decent? This is reminiscent of the openly demeaning propaganda against the Jewish population in Europe in the late 30s. Diversity isn’t the problem, unity is, but as long as people like you push hateful and prejudice dialogue divisions will grow.

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Enough with the race card

Get yourself a history book. White people have known hunger and starvation on a heartbreaking scale as well. Ask any Irish or Ukranian person. Lots of hungry white Americans during the Great Depression too. Your ignorant comment truly disgusts me.

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Why does the Radical Right want everything to be PC?

You must be pretty fragile. Is there a way they could phrase it so you wouldn’t be so offended?

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Dear ABoondy harasser.

You DO see you two other comments essentially saying what AB is saying, right???

Are they fragile as well?

I’ve seen Tamra around and she has been proven to be a racist and a “gimmie everything for free” leech on society.

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Why does the Radical Right want everything to be PC?

So what? Do you want her to be more PC? How could she phrase it so you wouldn’t be so incredibly offended?

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@this radical right moron

She ISN’T PC! That’s the biggest problem! She’s lazy assed who wants the world (and YOU!!!) to pay for her!!!

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Rosa

We haven’t seen nothing yet. Just wait until Cuomo allows landlords to start evicting the good people of this state and city!

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Deb

Some of our neighbors who shamed others who needed support from food banks and the city are now relying on them to survive too…hope we all learn something from this!

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Shahida

Lost my professional job 3/16/2020.
Take care of my elderly parents on social security. There is no work for me and no money left after rent. Food stamps for myself is all I can get – cant feed us. Can’t buy toilet paper or soap for shower, dishes, clothes — or food for my dog or cats. My car has two flat tires – and I cant fix them with no money. I. Grateful to still have a home, the electric on, and a toilet that flushes – toilet paper and soap apparently are luxuries in America. How proud we can all be of our government, military, and three letter agencies that “watch over” us LOL.

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Hustling NYC remix (feat Cuomo)

Thank your government for putting you i to this situation, but I feel bad for you, Shahida. Seek opportunity elsewhere, because this city is ruined. Sounds like you will soon be dependent upon those who ultimately placed you into your unfortunate position.

I, too, lost my job at one point because the company I worked for failed. Its tough really tough and life-shattering. It’s nice to have help, but help also seeks those who help themselves. Best of luck.

The necessities you listed are not scarce elsewhere. Get out of New York, for your own well-being. I wouldn’t want to help the hand that dealt you the bad cards. That’s twice the hustle with no reward.

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There’s enough Real Pain, stop lying

This post is faker then Hillary’s view on Benghazi. No money for soap? Seriously? How do you blame the military? CIA ? FBI? This is either the worst fake Chinese government troll job or the guy who was putting stickers on STOP signs acting like satellites were following him on 46th st last Sunday. Interesting no blame on our Democratic Mayor or Governor?!?!

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Nunya

She had those things before her career went away. Most people don’t have savings 10 months of savings to support them and their family. Do you?

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Joyce

Those who are financially, better off should aid those who are in dire straits. It is what the scriptures assert….. 🙏❤️

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Ling

“Heal the world
Make it a better place
For you and for me
And the entire human race
There are people dying
If you care enough for the living
Make it a better place
For you and for me” (Micheal Jackson, 1992)

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Louisa

We can still be kind, giving and friendly showing our neighbors that we care about them without spreading our germs. Please donate what we can during the most wonderful time of past years.

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Margarita

Supermarket prices have increased so much this year. Most local residents are finding it so hard to put food on the table everyday and help friends and neighbors in need. This is also part of the reason restaurants are struggling. Neighborhood residents can not afford the expensive meals they offer. Its truly sad. I have never seen so many people living on the streets in western queens. I saw on the news this morning that Ny had the highest percentage of people leaving compared to other states. A rent freeze would surely help people opt to stay in addition to expanding state and city benefits. I am sure they and many more will come back one day and those of us that stayed will recall how hungry we all are while they focus on opening cupcake and smoothie shops.

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A Normal Person

I can agree with much of what you said but you lost me on complaining about cupcake and smoothie shops. First of all, where isthe cupcake shop in Sunnyside because I want to go. Second of all, those are legitimate small businesses that employ people and contribute to the economy.
Or do you want there to be just Walgreens and Citibank’s?

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