Bronx residents suffered from food insecurities before the pandemic and COVID-19 has only exacerbated the problem. Lines at food pantries stretch around the block and thousands flock to food giveaways.
In fact, since the coronavirus arrived Councilman Mark Gjonaj and community organizations have teamed up to feed people. No program has been more beneficial towards this goal than the USDA’s Farmers to Families Food Box Program. Since last October, they have distributed food boxes with approximately 125,000 meals of milk, yogurt, fruits, vegetables and meat to thousands of struggling Bronxites.
However, at the end of the month this federally funded program is ending. If this happens, the councilman will have to shut down his weekly food giveaway.
On May 24, the lawmaker launched a petition calling on the federal government to continue funding the USDA’s Farmers to Families Food Box Program. So far it has 400 signatures.
“We’re not out of the pandemic,” Gjonaj said. “I guess they see the light at the end of the tunnel and think this program is no longer needed. We know that’s not the case, especially in the Bronx that has 15 percent unemployment, compared to the national average of 6 percent.These food boxes have made a difference in the lives of so many families.”
Each family receives 12 pounds of fruits and veggies, 5 pounds cheese and yogurt and a gallon of milk. On Tuesday he held one of the last food giveaways at Astor Ave and Boston Road.
He stressed to the Bronx Times that residents have come to rely on this food.
“When they hear that the food program is ending you’ll see how disappointed they are,” he commented.
Bronx resident Saiian comes to the food giveaway Gjonaj hosts every Tuesday and praised the councilman for what he has been doing. Since he is out of work, the food is quite important to him.
However, he was not pleased to find out the USDA program is expiring.
“The government can’t do this because people need the food” he said.
Gjonaj is also drafting legislation formerly calling on government officials to not abandon struggling Americans as they desperately try to recover from the impact of the pandemic.