Fernandez Organizes Food Giveaway and Sees Need for More
The line of people with rolling carts and hand trucks waiting to receive boxes of food filled the sidewalk of Hull Avenue. It started at the intersection of East 204th Street, and on its southern tip ended just short of East Mosholu Parkway North. Although the food event was scheduled to last an hour, the boxes were gone in less than 30 minutes.
Promoted as a Food Box Giveaway and spearheaded by Assemblywoman Nathalia Fernandez, the outdoor event highlighted an ongoing worrisome issue in Norwood: food insecurity.
“The turnout today was great,” Fernandez said. “A lot of people came out [and] we ran out of food early, but it further showed the food insecurity that still lingers in the neighborhood.”
Food security is a term used by the U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to describe the status of a household that has “access by all people at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life.” When a family has difficulties providing this basic amount of food, it is considered to be experiencing food insecurity.
In 2018, the latest year for which complete numbers are available, the organization, Feeding America, reported that 12.9 percent of Bronxites lived with food insecurity, including 18 percent of children. The organization projects that because of the pandemic, that number will rise to 22.7 percent of the borough’s population in 2020.
Aleksander Nilaj has seen the impact of food insecurity in the Bronx and beyond. As founder and president of the Albanian American Open Hand Association, his organization provides food donations to residents throughout the five boroughs, and as far upstate as Peekskill. “We have food pantries in the Bronx, in five different locations every week,” Nilaj said.
On Aug 20, he and his crew of volunteers worked with Fernandez and Sandra Pabon, committeewoman for the 80th assembly district, to help distribute the food to Norwood residents. Fernandez said, “We received the donation from Great Performances Catering.” Councilman Andrew Cohen and State Senator Jamaal T. Bailey were also on hand to help, with Congressman Adriano Espaillat listed as a supporter.
Nilaj’s crew brought 180 food boxes to the event, each with a breakfast, lunch, and dinner meal included. When asked about the number of people in line on Hull Avenue, he estimated the crowd at about 200. When the boxes ran out, the volunteers gave out paper bags containing chicken, ham, and veggie sandwiches.
As reported recently by Norwood News, a number of other food drives have been held in recent weeks, and indeed throughout the pandemic, across the borough, and are always well received.
Once all supplies ran out, Fernandez and the other organizers were heard telling those who left empty-handed to return next week. After seeing how popular the event was, both Fernandez and Nilaj expressed a desire to continue working together to address the issue of food insecurity in the Bronx. The assemblywoman will announce the next food giveaway on her social media accounts once the plan is confirmed. “We hope to do a weekly distribution,” she said.
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