Kathryn Garcia: COVID-19 Food Hero

by NYC Food Policy Editor

Why She’s a Food Hero: Kathryn Garcia was tasked with the challenge of creating a “citywide network to ensure that food is available to those who cannot afford it,” said Mayor de Blasio, when he appointed her as the COVID-19 Food Czar. The work included increased funding to emergency food relief services such as pantries and soup kitchens, increased home-delivery of meals to vulnerable populations, and grab-and-go meal service at New York City public schools. By July of 2020, the city had distributed more than one hundred million meals. As Food Czar, Garcia had many accomplishments, including providing meals to the elderly, supporting workers in the grocery supply chain, and ensuring meals offered to New Yorkers are culturally sensitive.

Background: Garcia grew up in Brooklyn, attending Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan before going to the University of Wisconsin in Madison. She has worked in New York City government throughout her career, including roles in the Department of Finance and the Department of Environmental Protection. She was appointed as the commissioner of the Department of Sanitation in 2014. 

Work: Garcia was appointed Food Czar during the COVID-19 crisis by Mayor Bill de Blasio on March 22, 2020. Prior to the appointment, she was the commissioner of the Department of Sanitation. In September 2021, she was appointed to the position of Director of New York State Operations by Governor Kathy Hochul.

Location: New York City

Awards, Praise and Honors: Garcia has been praised as New York City’s “go-to crisis manager” for her capabilities while handling the Housing Authority’s lead-poisoning crisis. 

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