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Nets, Barclays Center feed hundreds at arena food pantry

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The Nets and Barclays Center, both part of Joe Tsai’s Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment, served hundreds of Brooklynites Saturday at a mobile food pantry set up on the arena’s entrance plaza.

Working with Food Bank for New York City, the Nets and Barclays distributed both food and household supplies. In addition, families with children were given NBA Math Hoops board games, courtesy of the Nets. It’s a basketball board game that aims to engage students in math and social-emotional learning skills.

Organizers said they distributed 23,000 pounds of food —more than 10 tons— and 1,000 hygiene kits. The put the number of people helped at 2,000,

Using the same pedestrian flow and barricades the Nets have used to direct fans on game nights, organizers directed those seeking help to entrance doorways...

At each doorway to the arena lobby were tables filled with bins of food and necessities...

Inside, volunteers set up “assembly lines” to make sure the bins were kept full.

Feeding the city’s hungry has become critical during the coronavirus outbreak. Approximately 40% of soup kitchens and food pantries across the city have closed. In addition, schools where families could be assured their children would be fed are shuttered.

Janis Robinson of the Food Bank for New York City told NY1 that the mobile pantry —at Brooklyn’s busiest transit hub— was desperately needed.

“So we’re having to have pop-up distributions so we can be sure we can help the New Yorkers most in need right now,” said Robinson.

An unidentified Brooklyn mother interviewed by NY1 called the donations a “blessing.”

“Waking up as a mother not knowing where you next meal is coming from is the hardest thing you do. You know what I’m saying. That’s the worst feeling in the world to have,” she said. “So this is a blessing. I know they’ll eat for another week or two.”

Indeed, Brooklyn is now the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, not just in the city but in the country if not the world. On Friday, the state said that with more than 3,600 fatalities, the hard-hit borough, aka Kings County, had more deaths than any county in the United States.

The NY1 report was tweeted by Tsai on Saturday morning with the words, “in times of need, we all pitch in. @BrooklynNets.”

The mobile food pantry is just the latest effort by various elements of BSE, including Tsai personally, to reduce the burden on New Yorkers. Last month, Barclays Center distributed five tons of food to local food banks. The food had been acquired by Levy, the arena’s food and beverage concessionaire, for games and concerts that were cancelled.

The Nets and Barclays Center have also agreed to pay hourly wage workers —their own and those employed by Levy— their full salary and benefits at least through May 31 at a reported cost of $6 million. The arena workers union HERE has praised the Nets for their genosity.

And of course, Joe and Clara Wu Tsai arranged for the shipment of 2.6 million masks, divided between surgerical masks and N95 respirators, 170,000 goggles and 2,000 much needed ventilators to hospitals and nursing homes in New York and New Jersey. (Just last week, they sent a half million pieces of personal protective equipment to hospitals in San Diego, where the couple live and where Tsai owns a professional lacrosse team.)

Individual Nets led by Kyrie Irving have provided hundreds of thousands of their own dollars to food banks as well.