Food Insecurity in New York City

Increasing Access to Healthy Food Through Food Rescue and Distribution

Thanksgiving should be a time when families and communities gather together around food. Yet, the pandemic and the resultant economic crisis have put more New York residents than ever in a situation where they don’t have access to this basic foundation for health and well-being.

The elevated level of food insecurity in New York City is striking. Since the start of the pandemic, the number of New York City residents struggling with food insecurity increased 36% overall and a sobering 46% among children, according to an analysis by Feeding America. Now, nearly 1.5 million New Yorkers are experiencing food insecurity, including 1 in 4 New York City children. 

Food insecurity directly harms health, including increasing the likelihood of diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and obesity. Households struggling with these diseases often must choose between paying for the care they need or paying for nutritious food, continuing a negative cycle of continuous food insecurity and health struggles. Additionally, food insecurity leads to psychological and behavioral health issues and also makes it harder for children to succeed in school.

Recognizing the urgency to provide New York City residents most in need with safe access to nutritious meals, the Foundation provided a $250,000 grant to City Harvest to help respond to the crisis and feed New Yorkers.

As New York City’s largest food rescue organization, City Harvest was already providing food to serve millions of visits from New Yorkers facing food security at community food programs, and it scaled up operations to meet the unprecedented and expanded need for food across the city. Since the start of the pandemic, City Harvest has rescued more than 220 million pounds of fresh, nutritious food and delivered it, free of charge, to hundreds of food pantries, soup kitchens, community partners, as well as its own Mobile Markets, free farmers’ market-style events that provide access to fresh produce twice monthly at nine locations across the five boroughs.

Since 1982, City Harvest has rescued more than 1 billion pounds of nutritious food that would otherwise go to waste—working with restaurants, wholesalers, grocery stores, farms, and other partners—and distributed that food to individuals and families in need. 

No one can thrive on an empty stomach. As we approach the holiday season, it’s critical to recognize the barriers standing between vulnerable New Yorkers and a healthy, sustained life.   

Learn more about City Harvest and its efforts to rescue and distribute food here.