As a year, as a time, 2020 has been a monster. Between all of the losses we’ve experienced and changes to our daily lives, what we’ve long thought was normal may never return. But for people who experience food insecurity, COVID-19 has made tough times even tougher.
Food insecurity can be difficult to define, as it is to imagine for most of us, but the U.S. Department of Agriculture defines it as “the limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods or limited or uncertain ability to acquire acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways.” People and families can be classified as food insecure in three ways:
- Worrying whether their food will run out before they are able to buy more
- The food they bought didn’t last and they didn’t have money to get more
- They can’t afford to eat balanced meals.
Even before the pandemic, New Yorkers had been dealing with high levels of food insecurity. Due to rising costs of rent in NYC and the constant threat to food assistance programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), it’s harder for people to obtain the resources they need to get food. It’s why individuals and communities have turned to soup kitchens, pantries, and community groups for help. From the New York Times:
During the COVID-19 crisis, the NBA and WNBA have tried to step in to be a greater presence and source of support for their home communities. Players in both leagues have stood in solidarity with protesters in words, deeds, and actions. In Detroit and Atlanta, the Pistons and Hawks have used their arenas as polling sites so members of the community can safely cast their ballots. With mail in voting under risk from the feds, using your space to help everyone exercise their right to vote takes on even more importance.
The Brooklyn Nets and Barclays Center have stepped up in a different way with food. Nets fans will recognize the venue.
Barclays Center’s entrance plaza has become the ad hoc town square for Brooklyn during the pandemic and protests. And on July 30, it once again hosted a mobile pantry, partnering with Food Bank for New York City and in conjunction with Tyson Foods, the Brooklyn Public Library, Snipes, and Key Food. The distribution included fresh produce, shelf-stable pantry items, and 20,000 pounds of meat donated by Tyson.
This was the second mobile pantry held at Barclays since the pandemic struck the city. The choice of venue and the timing were both crucial. As Brooklyn’s most trafficked mass transit hub, people can walk out of the station and into line for food and other essentials.
As for the timing, Mayor Bill de Blasio said recently there are at least two million New Yorkers who can be classified as food insecure. This is a dramatic increase from the Winter of 2019, when the New York City Food Policy Center reported that 1.2 million New Yorkers could be classified that way. The pandemic has placed more stress on an already fragile system in NYC and the United States as a whole.
In a time like this, we need all aspects of society to step up and work together so our communities survive. Having organizations like the Library, Snipes, etc, come together and be sources of healthy food for people in need is incredibly important and more organizations will need to follow suit. Mandy Gutmann, Senior Vice President of Communications at BSE Global, the Joe Tsai holding company controls the Nets and Barclays, spoke about why events like the mobile pantry are so crucial:
“When the pandemic hit, we knew there would be an increased need for food in our city, so we reached out to the Food Bank to ask how we could help support them. Out of that conversation came the idea of hosting mobile food distributions on our plaza. During a time when food insecurity is especially high, it’s so important to step up and help out our neighbors, as they are always such incredible supporters of ours.”
The Nets and their players have worked the food security issue in other ways as well. After the NBA —and all its arenas— shut down in March, Joe Tsai’s parent company sent five tons of food already stored at Barclays Center to the Food Bank. Kyrie Irving has sent hundreds of thousands of dollars in both cash and Beyond Burgers to other groups supporting food security issues, as The Boardroom noted on Twitter this week...
Also this week, DeAndre Jordan surprised coronavirus testers in L.A. with meals from his favorite restaurants...
NBA's DeAndre Jordan Surprises 200 COVID-19 Frontline Workers With Meals https://t.co/rgp22WktHh— TMZ (@TMZ) August 14, 2020
COVID-19 has laid bare all of the inequalities in New York in devastating detail. As the pandemic rages on, communities will have to weather the storm and hope that more support comes from elected officials and those in power. In the meantime, events like the mobile pantry will help bridge the gap and help people in need. Having large companies be the ones to help address food insecurity isn’t perfect, but anybody that’s doing their part to help out and be there deserves mention.