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Without state aid, kosher food pantries strained by coronavirus may close their doors

With resources strained by the COVID-19 crisis, almost a third of New York City’s food pantries have shut their doors, and more are expected to close if the state does not provide emergency funding, said leaders at the Met Council on Jewish Poverty and City Harvest, a food rescue organization that partners with many kosher food pantries.

“69 of the community food programs City Harvest serves have already closed and even more are in danger of closing,” said Jilly Stephens, CEO of City Harvest.

With unemployment skyrocketing as a result of the coronavirus crisis, food pantries expect to see higher levels of food insecurity among struggling New Yorkers. But many are currently unable to meet those needs. Because of panic buying and high demand for groceries, prices of food staples such as chicken, eggs, and meat have increased. Wholesalers and supermarkets are outbidding cash-strapped food pantries on crucial supplies.

With the state budget due on April 1, food pantries are calling for emergency funding from both city and state government. New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson asked the city to commit $25 million to the food pantry system and called on lawmakers in Albany to match that amount. Food pantry leaders say that an injection of funding is necessary to keep the city’s food pantries afloat.

“We could be only days away from the collapse of the food pantry system,” said David Greenfield, CEO of the Met Council. “The blunt truth is many may not last the week without help.”

Irene Connelly is an editorial fellow at the Forward. You can contact her at [email protected]

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