As COVID recedes, NYC’s Black, Brown, and immigrant residents struggle to access healthy food |



There is a line of people looking for something, including those who are elderly or have full-time jobs. healthy foodFood assistance and options for themselves and their families in New York City as of September 14, 2021



This is the fourth report in The St. Louis American’s presentation of “The Barren Mile: COVID19 and the fight against food apartheid,” a national series, preceded by Pandemic pushes more Black Americans to take up urban farming to fight ‘food apartheid’ and Community gardens, food pantries head off COVID food catastrophe in St. Louis.

The Plaza square is located between a renovated milk bottling facility, an Applebees and the Billie Holiday Theatre in Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighbourhood. From the street, stairs that look like a deck lead up to the tables and stages overlooking Fulton Street and Marcy Avenue. A long line formed on a sunny September Wednesday. Some were Brooklynites, others were just hungry New Yorkers. The long line of people waited for hours in the Bed-Stuy Restoration Plaza Square, looking depressingly out-of-place. 

Single Mother in St. Vincent

“Places like this is very important for people like me, you know, single woman, single mother. It does always make a difference. I’ve been going to food pantry ever since I came to this country and didn’t have a green card,” said Feddoes, who moved to New York from Saint Vincent in the Caribbean when she was 15 years old.

Many of them were elderly people, some with strong accents or soft accents, which was a reminder that they had called another country home. June Feddoes (55) was a 55-year-old nursing home worker who lives in the area. She was wearing a scarf around her neck, orange scrubs, and a large Patagonia backpack. 

“Places like this is very important for people like me, you know, single woman, single mother. It does always make a difference. I’ve been going to food pantry ever since I came to this country and didn’t have a green card,” said Feddoes, who moved to New York from Saint Vincent in the Caribbean when she was 15 years old.



NYC Food Deserts and options for healthy food in New York



Everybody got corn stalks, sweet potatoes, and other food items placed in their bags or shopping carts, before rounding the corner to other service tables at the food pantry organized by New York City Councilmember Robert Cornegy to feed the city’s hungry, especially the elderly who were isolated at home, seeking safety from the deadly virus. 

The dual economic and public health crises triggered by the COVID-19 epidemic only increased the suffering of the 1.4million or so New York City residents living in areas that are not easily accessible to the city. healthy food. The most viscerally impacted were those like Feddoes — Black, brown, or immigrant, living in poorer neighborhoods — struggling to feed their families even with a full-time job in 2020.

These neighborhoods are common in all five boroughs. Amsterdam News spoke with community organizers, activists, and civil society organizations to paint a picture showing the desperate need to access fresh food. NorthshoreStaten Island, as also Bed-Stuy, Flatbush, East New York neighborhoods in Brooklyn — all areas that were dealing with food insecurity before the pandemic.  

It was difficult to shop for food during the pandemic. The March mandated lockdown effectively closed down the few fresh foods that people had access to.

Brooklyn native Sister Ellen Nelson, 60, grew up in Fort Greene’s public housing. Nelson was a teenager mom who graduated from high school and became a transit worker. Nelson, now a retired woman living in East New York, has completely changed her lifestyle and diet following a COVID scare last January.

Nelson lost two friends in 2020, and was diagnosed with COVID in March and May. During the lockdown, Nelson prayed a lot, spent a lot of time with her pets, and connected virtually to her children. She said she couldn’t breathe, had no sense of smell, and was losing weight. Nelson was convinced by the severe COVID symptoms to quit smoking and to get back into shape. 

“Lord Jesus help me, I began to say,”Nelson. “After a while things just calmed down in May. I was afraid to go out my door but began to go back outside a bit. Of course I washed my hands and stuff and I got vaccinated as soon as my turn.”



NYC Food Deserts lines for healthy food and food assistance in New York



Eagerness to respond

NY FOOD 20/20, a collaborative Food study of the COVID-19 crises, notatedThat “disparities in nutrition”Can be used in conjunction with racial or ethnic disparities. “disproportionate”A large number of Black and Brown communities are living in poverty and face food insecurity. Advertisements for unhealthy food and drinks that target Black and Latinx youth are also a problem. “the glut of highly-processed products in stores and lack of neighborhood access to healthy options.”This can lead to an increase in the prevalence of diet-related and health-related disease in these communities, according to the study.

The city rushed to StartPrograms that delivered groceries through 311 to seniors and put grab-and go meals in schools to reach New Yorkers, students and others in need. 

Even though the pandemic forced officials into “quickly and aggressively”Address the problem of food insecurity. “many City agencies struggled to adapt” according to the testimony of Charles Platkin, executive director at Hunter College’s NYC Food Policy Center, during a June 2021 public hearing of the The city council general welfare commission.  

Between April and July 2020 New York State and New York City Council approved over 30 pieces legislation that focused on emergency food programs and helping the restaurant business. Food Study reported.

The government-led food programs were unable to provide enough food and enough variety. There were complaints about the quality of the food. “spoiled, unhealthy, or not culturally appropriate,”Platkin. 

Nelson said she called 311 for city food deliveries during that time but didn’t want the meat in the kosher boxes and said the vegetarian options didn’t look so “healthy.” Eventually, she began cooking for herself and going out to farmer’s markets.

“Yesterday, I did the 5K run for the first time in Brownsville. I’m 60 years old, I’m diabetic, I have two knee replacements, and I did the walk, and it was nice,” said Nelson, beaming with pride about the progress she’s making. 

A large number of city residents had adult obesity, diabetes, or hypertension. “high risk for hospitalization, and death, from COVID-19,”The study concluded.

Major Food Suppliers

Bodegas, which aren’t known for having lots of fresh fruit or vegetables, were encouraged by their owners to stock up. Prices went up for disinfectant sprays, hand sanitizers, and face masks, but also basic food staples such as eggs, bread, milk, and disinfectant sprays. This was due to price gouging. Independent grocers and major food suppliers were caught raising prices in the city and across the state. 

The city also expanded the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP benefits program. Health bucks Bodegas with healthy drinksTo increase fresh food availability. Health bucks are coupons that were part of SNAP that allowed residents to redeem $2 worth of either fresh fruits or vegetables at farmer’s markets for every $5 they spend on a food benefit card. Many farmers’ markets will accept SNAP/EBT, WIC, and senior coupons as well.



NYC expands health benefits and farmers markets will accept SNAP/EBT, WIC, and senior coupons

New York City also expanded Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), a benefits program that was previously used by the city. Health bucks and healthy bodegas to increase the availability of fresh foods.  Many farmers’ markets will accept SNAP/EBT, WIC, senior coupons as well.



Bodegas, which aren’t known for having lots of fresh fruit or vegetables, were encouraged by their owners to stock up. Prices went up for disinfectant sprays, hand sanitizers, and face masks, but also basic food staples such as eggs, bread, milk, and disinfectant sprays. This was due to price gouging. Independent grocers and major food suppliers were caught raising prices in the city and across the state. 

The Office of the Attorney GeneralLetitia James (OAG), stated that they received more than 7k complaints about excessive prices and issued over 1,565 cease-and DESIST orders to businesses. 

“This is definitely a crisis we’re in, in the way all these prices are raised up in supermarkets as well as local bodegas. People are just hurting,”Robert Perkins, a Staten Island food advocate. “You name it there’s not one thing that didn’t go up.”

According to a survey, nearly a million New York City households received SNAP benefits in 2020. City data trackerMany people trusted them. pandemic food benefit cardsTo get by, use the P-EBT



NYC Food Deserts - East New York urban farm



There are still many things to do

Major and minor food distribution agencies, food pantries and soup kitchens were all hit hard by the increased demand for food. Many of these organizations closed at the start of the crisis. Platkin, head of NYC Food Policy Center, stated that food pantries and soup chefs left open saw a significant rise in visitors, often resulting from long lines.

Platkin said that while organizers, churches, and local officials tried to help, many didn’t have the resources to reach all residents in the chaos and confusion caused by the pandemic.

“We’ve been able to do a meaningful job considering, but there is more that needs to be done. By no stretch of the imagination have we been able to do it all,”Reverend Dr. Demetrius Carolina runs the First Central Baptist Church in Staten Island as well as the Central Family Life Center.

After George Floyd’s death in May 2020, the city was still grappling with the realities of civil unrest, lockdowns, and protests.

According to Jerome Nathaniel, an East New York native, the director for policy and government relations at City Harvest (a food rescue organization), the need was overwhelming. 

Nathaniel stated in February 2020 that City Harvest would deliver 70 million pounds worth of food per year. However, they ended up distributing over 200 million pounds from March through August. 

“I don’t think one organization, or one type of organization can do it. It would have to be food banks continuing to make sure people can eat tonight but also different organizations that touch on housing, medical, and child care,”Nathaniel said, “and then public policy can’t do it alone either.” 

Nathaniel stated, “The same neighborhoods that have limited food access are the same ones that are hardest hit by COVID.” He said that they have high rents, insufficient wages, and less transportation. “design”Some cases may be structurally and racially discriminatory. 

Feddoes

“This is not a place for people who are lazy or just sitting around, it’s for people that work and it makes a difference,”Feddoes expressed concern about the food pantry. Feddoes was thrilled to receive sweet potatoes and tuna every week from the food pantry. Laughing Feddoes stated that her favorite meal is seasoned fish and sweet potato in the microwave.

Cornegy said people couldn’t access good, healthy foodBecause of Bedstuy’s unemployment and quarantine. He said “cracking the code”It was difficult to find ways to reach seniors, especially in the New York City Housing Authority’s (NYCHA), developments in his district. 

“We started here on the plaza and then realized that there were people who were two blocks in proximity — that to them this was a whole different world,”Cornegy expressed concern about the possibility of going mobile.

Feddoes is employed at a Long Island nursing facility, but she declined to identify it. She commutes from Bedstuy and often arrives at Long Island two hours earlier than usual and returns late at night. She has a California daughter, a sister and niece living in Brooklyn, and a mother in Saint Vincent whom she sends money. She said that she used to rely on overtime to pay all her bills. But that was not the case last year. 

Feddoes expressed gratitude for the pantry, even though her income was reduced by half.  

Feddoes stated that she was a live in caretaker before getting her green card. She then switched to nursing. Feddoes stated that she has never had only one job. If there was one, it was with overtime. She is concerned about not being eligible to retire if her health deteriorates. 



NYC Food Deserts - New York's five boroughs

Access to healthy foodIt has been a problem in Black communities across New York’s five Boroughs. 



“This is not a place for people who are lazy or just sitting around, it’s for people that work and it makes a difference,”Feddoes expressed concern about the food pantry. She was thrilled to receive sweet potato and tuna each week at the food pantry. Laughing Feddoes stated that her favorite meal is seasoned fish and sweet potato in the microwave.

Waqiel Ahmed, Pakistani American Youth Society President, partnered with Black Lives Matter Brooklyn Branch President Anthony Beckford in south Brooklyn to open a mobile food court that provided hot, halal meals for residents.

Ahmed stated that they had been sending people in need to other locations before they decided to do it on their own. Ahmed said that they started with 100 people, and then they expanded to five locations. They now serve approximately 1,100 families.

Ahmed and Beckford shared the responsibility of feeding parts of Crown Heights and Brighton Beach, Coney Island and Flatbush, Kensington and Gravesend in Brooklyn. These neighborhoods are mainly Black and Caribbean, Orthodox Jewish, Muslim, and immigrant. 

“There’s a lot of immigrant people, they lose jobs and they working like week to week paychecks. And, a lot of people by word of mouth called us and recommended us where to go,”Ahmed.



NYC Food Deserts - East New York farmer



Urban farms are experiencing a shortage in workers

Some urban farms in east Brooklyn realized that they could not do much due to worker shortages. 

East New York Farms is directed by Iyeshima Harris. It is located on a small block at Schenck Avenue, between New Lots and Livonia Avenues. They also have a community garden onsite at NYCHA’s Pink Houses public housing.

Harris stated that Harris was the one who did most of last season’s labor because many of the seniors are volunteers. Their normal growing season starts in April. This was the time when the virus epidemic hit the city. The farm grows crops that are requested by the Latino, Black, and Asian communities. They grow carrots, long beans and bitter melon depending on the season. 

Harris stated that last year they had to stop the growing season too early. “Most of the gardens were abandoned since seniors were impacted the most by COVID,”Harris.

East New York organizer Keron Alleyne, who’s looking to run for New York State Assembly District 60, said that there are many community gardens in East New York but during the pandemic they tried to come together. It was difficult, he said, but the community managed to find a few people to deliver food or build out a garden. “haphazard”Network of farmers and gardeners 

Alleyne went on to work with the city’s community gardens in the parks department, GreenthumbTo establish a community garden advocacy organization. The group consists of mostly elderly Black women who garden. They gathered for a celebratory barbecue in Highland Park in October. 

Kelebohile, a community gardener and chef, said that she continued to grow herbs and food in her garden and gave them to her neighbors last season. 

She said other neighborhoods get to capitalize on their access and affordability, which makes it seem like people in East New York or elsewhere don’t want healthy, fresh food. She said that’s not true. Nkhereanye spoke about a “gap”In the perception of fresh food access in the community. 

“Some people don’t go to the farmer’s markets because they think it’s expensive or it’s for white people, and so there’s a gap in knowledge,” said Nkhereanye. “The structure in place is not designed to give us credit and let us know our food system.”

Ariama C. Long is a  Report for America corps member and writes about culture and politics in New York City for New York Amsterdam News.

“The Barren Mile: COVID19 & the fight against food Apartheid” is a comprehensive look at the impact of the pandemic on inequitable food access in the United States.  The special project was spearheaded by Report for America and its parent company, The Ground Truth Project. Reporters from four RFA host newsrooms — The St. Louis American (Missouri), The Atlanta News (Georgia), Black Voice News (Riverside, California) and New York Amsterdam News (New York) — spent five months speaking with scores of consumers, activists and corporate and government officials about the continuing problem. This is the third article in a series about the topic.

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