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Higher Grocery Prices Are Pressuring NYC Food Pantries to Close

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One third of the city’s food pantries have already been forced to shutter, according to a new report

A gloved hand holding a clear plastic bag filled with fruit and vegetables
A volunteer from City Harvest distributing food on March 28, 2020
Photo by KENA BETANCUR/AFP via Getty Images

New York City’s food pantries are in dire need of more government support, the New York Post reports. Like everyone else, the pantries are having to pay extraordinary costs for basic goods like eggs, while their staffs dwindle as people fall ill, one nonprofit CEO says. In response, the pantries have to devote money towards buying protective gear for the staff that can work, putting more pressure on precious funds.

NYC Council speaker Corey Johnson called on Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo to funnel $50 million in emergency aid to the nonprofits that are still operating — $25 million coming from the city, and $25 million from the state — but no budget decisions have been made yet.

“I’m like a guy who shows up in the ER and hopes the doctors are going to do the right thing,” David Greenfield, the CEO of nonprofit the Met Council, tells the Post. “I’m in the ER, we’ve shown up at the ER, we’re saying we’re dying over here, we need help. It’s up to the government to helps us or leave us to die.”

Nearly one-third of food pantries in the five boroughs have already shut their doors due to lack of resources, according to the Post. For those that are still open, the nonprofits are handing out 30 to 50 percent more food to try and meet the overwhelming need for help.

Some of that food is coming from NYC restaurant donations. City Harvest received over 50,000 pounds of food from almost 50 restaurants in five days in mid-March, the nonprofit told Eater, while the Food Bank of New York also saw a “noticeable” increase in the amount of donations from restaurants in the same time period.

But even with the extra help from the restaurant industry, the emergency aid is still needed. More and more New Yorkers need immediate help amid the coronavirus crisis, as joblessness rates skyrocket. Unemployment claims in the state are up 1,000 percent in some areas, with 80,500 claims filed in one week in mid-March, according to statistics released by New York’s Department of Labor.

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