Food banks are gearing up to expand the number of Thanksgiving meals served to needy New Yorkers as skyrocketing unemployment has forced thousands to seek help.
“It’s people who never thought they would find themselves standing on line for food to feed themselves and their families,” said Leslie Gordon, the president and CEO of Food Bank for New York. “Some of these folks are donors to Food Bank — people who used to write checks to support our work, and now they are on line.”
An estimated 2 million New Yorkers are hungry this holiday season, Gordon said, a troubling 500,000-person increase from a typical year. To meet the staggering need, Food Bank is on track to distribute 100 million pounds of food this year to its network of 1,000 charities, up from 70 million in 2019, Gordon said.
As Thanksgiving nears, food suppliers say they’re working around the clock to pump out turkeys and other meals.
“For us, it is our biggest Thanksgiving ever,” said Karen Pearl, president and CEO of meal-delivery service God’s Love We Deliver. “Part of that is related to COVID. Our numbers just skyrocketed during COVID.”
The nonprofit, which serves clients with medical needs and who can’t leave their homes, plans to prepare and deliver 10,000 plates from its Soho kitchen this year, 1,600 more than it would in a typical year, Pearl said.
An army of 1,500 volunteers will fan out across the city to deliver the food, and a holiday gift.
Food distributor City Harvest will also give away 24% more birds through its network of 250 soup kitchens and pantries, about 14,000 turkeys total, according to a spokesperson.
Food Bank also expects to double its annual turkey giveaway, Gordon said. The nonprofit will donate 100,000 turkeys, double the amount as in a normal holiday season, Gordon said.
On Saturday, hundreds of Brooklyn NYCHA residents were recipients of free Thanksgiving meals, courtesy of Food Bank, Stop & Shop, Wakefern Food Co-Op, and comedian Tracy Morgan — who was on hand at the Tompkins Houses for the giveaway.
Morgan, who grew up in the complex, came with his daughter, Maven, 7, and son Tracy Jr., 29. He shook hands and posed for photos and pointed out where his parents lived in one of the towers.
“I’d like to take a moment to wish everybody in the Tompkins project a beautiful, beautiful and safe, safe — please stay safe — holiday season,” Morgan said using a police car’s public address system. “God bless you. I love you.”