For organizations in the emergency food space, the COVID-19 pandemic has been about adaptability. We at New York Common Pantry have had to adapt to rapidly changing needs of our participants and have had to recognize the necessity of new models for food assistance and poverty alleviation programs.
Pandemic-related economic devastation caused the number of New Yorkers seeking food assistance to nearly double to 2.2 million, while emergency food providers faced supply chain issues and challenges in providing services safely, needing to protect their workforce and their clients from COVID-19 infection.
With these pressing issues at hand, we knew it was imperative to find a way to bring emergency food assistance to those in underserved locations who lacked the means or ability to travel to our food pantries and to put our participants at lower risk.
At the height of the pandemic in April 2020, NYCP began working with other social service organizations and community leaders to serve their food-insecure populations, delivering grocery packages directly to neighborhoods across the city in our Food Rescue trucks. The Mobile Pantry Pilot program provided 1,133,621 meals in its first year, reaching 11,208 individuals citywide.
The Mobile Pantry truck is designed to be able to serve people with dignity and ease. By traveling to communities in need, we are recognizing the unique needs of individuals – some may be families with children, some may be elderly and immunocompromised. Providing access to food close to home, and in a location they frequent – such as a school or community center – takes into account how busy and complicated people’s lives are.
On October 29th, New York Common Pantry unveiled its state of the art Mobile Pantry vehicle. The vehicle is equipped with refrigeration, freezer, and a concession window to serve guests directly from the truck and help bring the same Choice Pantry fresh, healthy food available at our Bronx and East Harlem locations to underserved neighborhoods throughout the city. The Mobile Pantry Vehicle will also bring our case management and nutrition education services on-the-go to participants.
Our hope moving forward is to have three or four Mobile Pantry trucks to be able to serve throughout the city and to be able to meet people where they are, increasing access to healthy foods and helping communities in need.
-New York Common Pantry