There are images from the COVID-19 pandemic that will be hard to forget, like refrigerated trucks parked outside hospital morgues, deserted streets in America’s largest city and lines stretching around the block from food distribution centers.
The last one will be easy to remember because it is likely to be a constant—maybe even more common—site as COVID’s economic impact hardens and deepens.
At the Bushwick office of the advocacy group Make the Road New York, food pantry patronage has swelled from roughly 200 families per week before the pandemic to more than 500 now. Families can use the pantry twice a month. According to a spokesperson for Make the Road New York, many of the clients are housekeepers, delivery workers, day laborers and construction workers. One thing many of the patrons have in common is their exclusion from the first federal relief packages and other, long-standing economic supports because of their immigration status.
The number of people in New York City receiving help from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as Food Stamps), grew by 144,000 between June 2019 and June 2020—a jump equal to the population of Syracuse. But only U.S. citizens and some legal non-citizen residents can get SNAP.