food insecurity in nyc

Volunteers Distribute Thanksgiving Meals as Pandemic Drives Food Insecurity Surge

The pandemic has caused food insecurity to surge all across the tri-state area.

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What to Know

  • Volunteers throughout the tri-state area took the time to cook warm Thanksgiving meals for those in need, at a time when the pandemic has caused food insecurity to surge.
  • Early Thursday morning, volunteers were already hard at work at The Bowery Mission in Manhattan preparing warm Thanksgiving meals for those in need.
  • And while it is a tradition for the organization to cook up a traditional Thanksgiving meal for over a thousand people, this year, due to COVID, it will be a bit different, with outside dining and social distancing measures in place.

Volunteers throughout the tri-state area took the time to cook warm Thanksgiving meals for those in need, at a time when the pandemic has caused food insecurity to surge.

Early Thursday morning, volunteers were already hard at work at The Bowery Mission in Manhattan preparing warm Thanksgiving meals for those in need. And while it is a tradition for the organization to cook up a traditional Thanksgiving meal for over a thousand people, this year -- due to COVID -- it will be a bit different with outside dining and social distancing measures in place.

According to James Winans, CEO of The Bowery Mission, the organization usually saw upwards of 1,800 people walk through their doors on Thanksgiving for a warm meal prepared by around 500 volunteers in years past. However, in 2020 meals will be distributed outdoors with a limited number of volunteers helping out.

The Bowery Mission set up tents outside where people can enjoy their meals while being socially distant.

While Winans said it is hard to say how many people will show up Thanksgiving, The Bowery Mission anticipates more than 1,000 people, with the organization's volunteers preparing "plenty of food."

Although food insecurity has been an ongoing issue, Winans said the pandemic has intensified the problem.

"At the height of this pandemic, we saw the numbers double here at The Bowery Mission," Winans told News 4 New York. "We saw new people on the line. People who had just lost work, had just been laid off, furloughed, and were relying on emergency for the first time, as well as our neighbors who don't have homes. We are here to serve everybody and we are going to do that in a special way today on Thanksgiving."

Meanwhile, Citymeals on Wheels volunteers at Stanley Isaacs Senior Center on the Upper East Side gathered Thursday morning to prepare hot meals to deliver to older New Yorkers in need.

Beth Shapiro, Executive Director of Citymeals on Wheels, said that the organization will be delivering 25,000 "festive, nutritious, delicious Thanksgiving meals to homebound elderly New Yorkers."

Shapiro said the tradition allows older, homebound New Yorkers, who are too frail to cook or shop for themselves and who may be alone, to have a traditional meal and remind them that there is someone who cares, especially during the pandemic.

"With COVID, we all understand isolation in a new way, in a different way, and to think about an older New Yorker who really can't go to the grocery store because they are so vulnerable, the most vulnerable right now," Shapiro said. "For others to come out right now to volunteer, we have over 250 volunteers today, taking their time to think about others is incredible and so special, heartwarming and important."

The pandemic has caused a surge in food insecurity in the tri-state area. Volunteers at the Bowery Mission are cooking up a festive meal to provide to those in need on Thanksgiving Day. Stacie Strahan reports.

In another part of Manhattan, an army of volunteers at God's Love We Deliver were also preparing Thanksgiving meals.

"Today we are preparing 30 percent more meals than we were doing pre-COVID," President and CEO of God's Love We Deliver, Karen Pearl, said. "Totally changed protocols, here I am with a mask on Thanksgiving. Everyone is socially distant."

The meals were delivered by 1,400 volunteers throughout New York City to the most vulnerable.

Heidi Oliva, a 93-year-old resident in the Upper East Side, shared her joy with NBC 4 New York after receiving her meal as well as a bag of more food and personal items.

"It made my day," she said. "It's my lifesaver."

Volunteer John Lee says he grew up in the city and it just "feels good" to give back "weekly and especially on the holidays" to one's community.

A family-owned restaurant in Hoboken, New Jersey, cooked up free Thanksgiving meals for those facing hardship during the ongoing pandemic. Ray Villeda reports.

Meanwhile, across the river in Hoboken, New Jersey, it was a family affair at a restaurant that continues to help others at a time when many eateries are struggling during the pandemic.

Mario's Classic Pizza, a Hoboken staple, has been in the neighborhood for 35 years and for much of that time its owner has been giving out his time and food on Thanksgiving for free.

"It makes me feel good and people are so good to me during the year...they really appreciate it and this makes me feel happy at the end of the day," Mario Albunia told News 4 New York.

Throughout the day, people of all walks of life showed up to get a bite to eat, many finding out through word of mouth.

This year, because of the pandemic, Albunia's family has even gone the extra distance by hand delivering the food to customers.

"It's wonderful how caring and giving they are," Hoboken resident Dena Jaloudi said.

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