NEW YORK – A Brooklyn nonprofit that helps stock shelves in small pantries says it’s providing ten times more meals now than before the pandemic.
The nonprofit’s director said CBS2’s Lisa Rozner cereal is among the hardest-to-get items for low-income New Yorkers.
The first humanitarian cargo ship carrying thousands of tons of wheat from Ukraine since the Russian invasion in February is heading for an African country. The objective is to put cereals back on world markets.
It is an agreement brokered by the United Nations World Food Programme. Ertharin Cousin is the former Managing Director.
“People should care because about 27-30% of all grains and essential oils in this global food trade system come from Ukraine and Russia. And when that food is not part of the system, it creates a price increase,” she said. “The second reason why people should care is that there are a number of countries like Somalia, for example, where they are suffering from their third year of drought. And they depend on imports directly from Ukraine .”
Somalia is one of the places where the humanitarian organization Action Against Hunger, headquartered in New York, has a presence on the ground. The organization says some families have had to leave rural areas because there is no water available for daily use.
“They can’t farm where they used to farm, you know, and depend on their food as a source of food,” said Ahmed Khalif of Action Against Hunger Somalia. “One, uh, Amina Mohamed told me that she has to reduce the number of meals her family will eat in a day. And she, she also has to make, uh, hard choices in terms of who among our children will be fed for .”
In the United States, the nonprofit Campaign Against Hunger in eastern New York showed CBS2 the five shelves containing cereal out of the 30 that were stocked.
The organization distributes food to 14,000 families every week and supports 165 small pantries. Programs Director Tamara Dawson explains that due to rising prices, they can only distribute half of what they used to.
“Before this hunger crisis, the average bag would have enough to feed a family of four, nine meals, three meals a day, and so that would be double what we have here,” she said.
Several of the empty shelves would usually be for bread, but the campaign says it’s so expensive they haven’t bought any in months.
“Today you see quinoa, and that’s the only grain that’s currently on the list because that’s all we have due to need, but generally you’ll see whole grain pasta, regular pasta, you’ll see rice,” Dawson said.
The Migrant Kitchen restaurant is limiting baking options, but the crisis is also making it harder to give back through the Migrant Kitchen Initiative, which feeds communities in need.
“It affects margins, and so it puts more pressure on the foundation to provide private support to help supplement what we do,” said Jaclinn Tanney, co-founder of Migrant Kitchen.
The restaurant recently joined the rewards app Seated in hopes of boosting sales. The co-founder says a portion of the profits fund his efforts, such as reaching low-income residents who are confined to their homes.
As to whether these expeditions will change things? An expert says it’s complicated for the United States.
For example, the director of the CUNY Urban Food Policy Institute, Nicholas Freudenberg, says, “Before the pandemic, a very strong consolidation of the food industry, where only a few companies now control a large part of the world’s food supply. And so these companies used the shortages to raise prices.”
He says logistical hurdles may still stand in the way, and some experts say it could take months or years before there is significant improvement.
Several of these organizations say they also have difficulty recruiting volunteers. Find out how to get involved: