5 Ways to Help Fight Food Insecurity During the Holidays

by Kevin Guerrero

The holiday season can be difficult, especially while navigating the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. If you’re looking for a way to pay it forward but are unsure how to help, consider donating your time, extra food or money to a cause that fights food insecurity. 

Food insecurity was already a nation-wide challenge before COVID-19, and since March, the number of food insecure individuals in New York City has nearly doubled. The inability of folks who are immunocompromised to access food safely, in addition lay-offs, industry shutdowns, and in-person school closures have all contributed to increased food insecurity. You can help to alleviate this problem in the following ways:


Volunteer at a Local Food Pantry or Soup Kitchen

The need: Food pantries and soup kitchens are finding it difficult to remain open during the pandemic because seniors and other high-risk individuals who would normally volunteer have been advised to remain at home as much as possible and only go out when absolutely necessary. Because of the volunteer shortage, many food pantries and soup kitchens have had to close or to limit their hours or days of operation despite the fact that the need for their services is on the rise. 

Where to start: Explore the Coronavirus NYC Neighborhood Food Resource Guides, which lists all food pantries and soup kitchens in each neighborhood of New York City with mention of organizations that are looking for volunteers. 


Donate Food to a Local Food Pantry or Soup Kitchen

The need: Food pantries may have specific needs depending on the populations they serve  as well as on what is available from large donors and food banks. Call ahead to ask what items are in short supply and high demand, or what items the organization would benefit from most. 

Where to start: Find a local food pantry in the Coronavirus NYC Neighborhood Food Resource Guide for your neighborhood, then call to find out what specific types of perishable or non-perishable food items would be best to donate.  


Rescue Produce From Local Grocery Stores

The need: The emergency food system relies on donated and rescued food. Restaurants that are either closed or ordering less because of limited capacity have caused a disruption in the food supply. If a grocery store is willing to donate unsold food instead of throwing it away, offer to deliver the food to a local food pantry or soup kitchen.

Where to start: The Coronavirus NYC Neighborhood Food Resource Guide includes a list of all retail food stores (including supermarkets, delis and bodegas) by neighborhood. Call your local store to find out if they have excess produce (or non-perishables) that can be donated. Then find a local food pantry or soup kitchen in the Resource Guide and ask when they are able to receive donations..  


Donate Money to Food Distribution Organizations 

The need: Food distribution organizations around the country use donations from organizations and individuals to cover the cost of food, transportation, and even packaging materials. due to. Your contribution will help these organizations to provide and deliver food to those in need.

Where to start: Food distribution organizations, including food banks and other community-based organizations, exist on national, city, and local levels. Donate to an organization that reaches folks in your neighborhood specifically, such as the Green Bronx Machine or Harlem Grown, or search through the Coronavirus NYC Neighborhood Food Resource Guide to find one in your area.


Write to Policymakers

The need: Legislative bills can support people who are food insecure by creating and maintaining hunger-relief programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and providing additional funding, such as the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security, or CARES Act, in times of need. Writing to your local officials can help keep important programs in place and encourage lawmakers to enact policies that focus on food access for households in need. Calling or writing a letter (or email) to your local lawmaker lets your voice be heard and shows policymakers that you care about ensuring food security for all.

Where to start: Feeding America has created a pre-written email designed to send to Congress that addresses the issue of hunger across the country and the importance of hunger-relief programs such as SNAP, the Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), School Lunch and School Breakfast, and others. If you prefer to do additional digging to determine what legislation you most want to be passed, GovTrack offers a list of bills related to food and agriculture and provides information on their current status in the legislative process.

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