Expired unemployment benefits amplify the need for food


A surprising scene, highlighting the desperation of many in Queens – we first covered State Senator Jessica Ramos’ food gift at her district office on May 1. The queue spanned five blocks.It has only increased since then.

“We have seen the line grow. Up to 2,000 people, ”Ramos said.

What would you like to know

  • State Senator Jessica Ramos said her office served up to 2,000 people a day during one of 14 weekly food distributions her office held
  • City Harvest sees increased demand for food due to expiration of unemployment benefits
  • City Harvest officials: Before the pandemic, 1.2 million New Yorkers struggled to get enough food to eat
  • City Harvest estimates: 800,000 residents will be food insecure due to the economic fallout from the pandemic

Last weekend, Ramos hosted his 14th and final weekly food giveaway at the Hall of Science in Corona.

In April, his office teamed up with upstate farmers to help bring fresh produce that would typically be sold to restaurants – to families in need in Queens.

But Ramos says, as business has picked up for restaurants statewide, those donations are dwindling. So his office now routes any support he receives to local pantries and self-help groups.

“We are trying to find the best way to create the most sustainable food system, especially in our region, which has been a food desert for a significant period of time,” Ramos said.

City Harvest, the city’s largest food rescue organization and responsible for pantry storage in all five boroughs, is also hearing more calls for help.

Organizers say in particular since federal unemployment aid providing an additional $ 600 a week has expired, some families have to choose between paying rent or putting food on the table.

“There is an influx of people participating in our programs who may not have been to an emergency food program before,” said Jerome Nathaniel, deputy director of policy and government relations for City Harvest.

Nathaniel says that as federal lawmakers battle for a new stimulus package to provide much-needed relief, more New Yorkers are going hungry.

“Many families are suffering as we wait for approval for another round of unemployment benefits,” Nathaniel said.

City Harvest officials said that before the pandemic, 1.2 million New Yorkers struggled to get enough food to eat. They estimate that 800,000 residents will join their ranks because of the economic fallout from the pandemic.


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Main story image courtesy of Enrique Rosas


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