The Daily - A Day at the Food Pantry

On a day early this fall, Nikita Stewart, who covers social services for The New York Times, and the Daily producers Annie Brown and Stella Tan spent a day at Council of Peoples Organization, a food pantry in Brooklyn, speaking to its workers and clients.As with many other pantries in the city, it has seen its demand rocket during the pandemic as many New Yorkers face food shortages. And with the year drawing to a close, many of New York City’s pantries — often run with private money — face a fu

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I don't know.

What's that that must be at the area the Halal food pantry?

All right at 7:04 on a Friday morning. The pantry doesn't open for another couple of hours and people are already lined up down the block.

It brought baskets or little portable chairs. They can sit down while they wait and they're waiting for it to open. Yes. So before the pandemic I had covered pantries and you know, there would be a few people in line. If you were walking past you might not have known that it was a pantry but in a pandemic hit

The need was just unbelievable you had job loss. But you also had this pandemic that made it difficult for a lot of people to actually volunteer at the pantry. So a lot of smaller pantries have closed and I'm not saying like a few like hundreds closed because they were mainly run by elderly volunteers who just could not be exposed to the virus.

So as the number of people who need food assistance is growing. The number of pantries has actually diminished. So do you think are happening at the same time? Yes, and one of the reasons you also see so many people in this line is because this line serves a lot of immigrants.

And so it's like what are you going to do? If you've lost your job and you have no Public Assistance getting in this line and you know, this is not a choice. This is a necessity.

New York Times, I'm likable borrow. This is a daily.

For the last eight months all over New York City. I actually got up around 3 a.m. And when I looked I saw the line just already there lines have wrapped around food pantry. People are going to wait like 7-8 hours just to get some groceries.

As a million City residents, please new food shortages in the wake of the pandemic.

Batman something else. I've never seen anything like this. I never thought our food pantry would be something like this or they would be such a big need Cobra just changed the whole lot of things. I just changed into our way of life.

Today as we approach Thanksgiving a holiday to find buy food Social Services reporter Nikita Stuart with the story of one at 1 Food Pantry in Brooklyn.

It's Wednesday, November 25th.

Social justice league six feet apart you are too cold you are too close together earlier this fall. I went with daily producers Annie Brown and Stella tan the Council of people's organization or Copo a food pantry in a neighborhood called Midwood in Brooklyn.

As other countries have closed. This one has seen its demand Skyrocket. We thought it was

and now it's just unbelievable owl sounds at least 2,000 on the line is to help our American and new Americans to fulfill their American dream in the great from Pakistan and grew up nearby projects in Brooklyn. My dad was running two jobs. My mother was running two jobs and I grew up on the food stamp myself my kids also but I worked and I worked and I worked and you know, I got to running five different businesses and then 9/11 happen and after 9/11 people came to my storage to think I need help for immigration services and I ultimately gave up all my businesses build it all off and this is what I do for the past 18 years.

Coco operates out of a storefront on busy Coney Island Avenue by 10 a.m. Two lines that formed on the sidewalk

the one side or seniors and First Responders will be given food first. And on the other side is everyone else in a line that wraps all the way around the block.

A series of tents are set up in the street were parking spots once were this type of face that I filled with boxes and boxes of fresh produce and canned goods and pallets of food. I see some canned corn canned collard greens chickpeas with a lot of food literally hundreds of boxes.

Dozens of volunteers are running around getting everything organized and ready to be handed out. There's going to be one two, three four people who are going to start to give them tickets 55 56 57 and they say, okay, please do not lose your slip. Otherwise, you would lose your spot in line if that's what you think we learned.


People are fighting I'm like, I can't believe it. You know, you guys don't fight fleas. So they're going to have a team. What time is it? Is it almost time?

At 10:30 after hours of volunteer prep work and hours of people waiting in line. It's finally time to give out food.

Who's my number one?

Your number one almost like to eat.

Thank you, Auntie come this way.

One after another people step up with their empty bags or cards and move down a line of volunteers.

Then the onions and then we get the Cucumbers the canned fruit tuna and tomato and don't we get rice and then we get the bean.

And a gallon of milk eggs wonderful day, and then you're going to get cilantro.

All right, if people start to be served a walk down the block to the folks who are waiting.

Hi bear. Can you give your name? What's your name? How old are you? And then because our store is like a fire dust because store file for bankruptcy and I was like a register cashier.

How long have you been coming here until we found out what they giving food as we start coming?

And what time did you get here today? And I Champion let go run around for stuff with my parents or I am going to go home and then come back at the class.

How long have you been coming here to this pantry?

May I ask how old you are on 1414 and how long have you been coming to this food pantry in a few months basically because my mom she worked at a nursing home and my dad he used to be like a food vendor. So we have no source of income. So we have to resort to here and it was very helpful and that they started coming only in the past few months and they had to come because of job losses due to the pandemic.

I'm looking for the hotel housekeeper. I worked at Stauffers talking to the apartment.

How did you feel coming to the pantries the first time?

Oh my goodness. I feel so depressed. Are we working?

So I said oh my God.

What's Your Name by Tasha Natasha and how old are you when did you start coming that that's when we started coming because my husband has lost his job and I have two kids. What does your husband do for a living because before I would think that food pantries is something like you where people go there homeless people but I didn't know that we as a family we would be ever in need in your kitchen or what. Did you not see in your kitchen where you thought I have to go to the concert to go to the store at any time along with buy any kind of snacks for the kids to have lots of vegetables that are fruits are in a whole grain pasta and all this.

And my other one is for he was you still going to the store with us and buying whatever he wanted. So it was it was not easy to talk to explain to him that like right now we're just not able to do that. But slowly slowly he understand and now whenever we go to the store, he's like, okay, how much is this? And how much is it? Can we afford that talk about snacks for your kids? What have you not been able to give them that you could before your husband lost his job what their favorite fruit?

My favorite Chaperone a favorite food.

the watermelon and cantaloupe

All right. Let's go over there.

What time did you get there today at like 8:00? 8:30? And how long have you been coming to The Pantry? This is the first time I'm coming here. I heard this is a hollow place and I mostly him and I I'd like to come here to get like halal food. I'm 25 and are you working right now in a Burger King and they are open right now, but I am really scared to go there because I have like old parents to take care of and I'm leaving in like one bedroom apartments so I don't have place to quarantine for them. So.

So yeah, it's really hard time for us.

I don't know how I say the word looks like it. I feel like I'm 04 first one right now.

And out of money, I never thought about it because I thought like USA the dream class where I can leave my life. I mean if it's not like wearing a mask, then I would never call my thing because I was at MUSC. I think it's I feel like I can protect my identity like no one can see me and I can get come here and get food. What would you be afraid of if you if you weren't wearing a mask? Why do I not come because like maybe my neighbor or maybe someone will see me and I don't want to I don't want to be in the situation to get free food.

Because I can work but this is the nightmare for us.

Okay, but actually I didn't know like there will be a long line. So yeah, I feel like now I feel like I'm not alone.

like that

the my name is Stella. What's your name on Maria Maria? And may I ask how old you are 28 and I see that you have one on the way over three months. Are you 7 and 1/2 7 and 1/2 hour almost there and you're carrying so many bags right now. Thank you. What made you first start coming to the pan?

Because I lost my job. I was working on the daycare. I mean we have to eat and I'm a single mother and I'm pregnant and I said, oh my God, why wanted something to do? So it was horrible for me. I mean, I supposed to have 354 this virus. It's like a and I lost my job. So he was like a depressed and everything. So I lost one, but it's so difficult.

But now it's much better.

Yeah, thank God.

And this is how you know what your having?

A girl you have a name yet? Yes, it's Brianna. It's so horrible is so immense give from the sky.

In the future, maybe she could have like strong woman like right now and before she born. She's like fight for the life and everything. So I think she's going to be a great woman fighter and everything. Yeah.

That's what I think.

What number are you on? 678?

And we still have three hours to go.

We'll be right back.

Experience New York Times reporting with exceptional closeness in collaboration with Facebook augmented reality journalism from The New York Times can help you explore complex topics in an interactive Way new Instagram effects lets you visualize air pollution become a suffragette in honor of the 100th anniversary of women's right to vote and more check out our AR journalism by visiting the effects tab on the New York times's Instagram page.

people link a movie little kid movie

Thank you so much quickly guys. Selfie. Just come on.

Shall we get an update from Muhammad Muhammad about the food situation?

Can I ask you for an update about where we are with the amount of food? What have you run out of the vegetables and I ran out of

whole bunch of other stuff

Slim Pickens

I defeat boxes and boxes of canned tomatoes that are like the watermelon mint first place was out here like cauliflower carrots potatoes onions carrots and potatoes like gone is gone. And for a lot of people that's like the most expensive thing, right? So like a bag of black beans you can find for a dollar or $2.

You know produce in very different.

Seeing this right now at what time is it at 2:20?

Edmail give me a better understanding of why people were here at 4 a.m. And people were putting their cards down at 1 a.m.

People rented moving no, no.

What time is it?

Things like a kite over what are not chicken has more oil.

No, no, no, no.

Must be so hard is cuz everybody saying get what they need. I know everybody needs what we got to share with everybody.

I'm so worried.


I'm still waiting on my milk. What are you worried about supposed to get $10 of milk and yogurt which also I wanted to do something and it happened time hasn't come so, you know what happens with the alliance. We told him to wait because in 9 minutes, I should have a truck here. Hopefully 9 Minutes line just before 2:30 to wait for a big shipment of milk and yogurt to arrive. It's now nearly four hours since the food started to be distributed Authority Holland America.

So if you don't want to wait for them bill, I could be patient do you want?

2:40 in the afternoon the milk and yogurt was supposed to arrive at 2:30 and it's still not here and now people are getting upset. I just needed a cigarette break.

I don't know what else to do.

There's a lot of symptoms and that's what I've seen in.

Pretty much every Pantry I have gone to there is some kind of complaint or argument either between people who are in line or the people in line versus the volunteers.

if I say so frustrating to be at the mercy of

whenever the food arrived.

Well, here's the thing about you know covering poverty. What hurts me the most is like the lack of choices and the waiting.

People who like have nothing like the writing is horrible.

I don't think people understand how valuable time is and you know the time he had to take.


For most of my life. I try not to think about the stuff. I didn't want to think about poverty.

So most of my journalistic career, I spent covering politics and political corruption.

And then in 2015 the times asked me if I would be interested in covering Social Services.

And I have to ask myself why I hadn't covered Social Services in all the years that I had been a reporter.

And I realize that it was just because it hit too close to home.

my family

went in and out of poverty.

Sometimes they were like these great prosperous times and there were other times that we were on food stamps and I have those memories of going to pick up my free lunch car. Sometimes I didn't go pick it up because I was afraid someone would see me and other kids would be like all aren't you eating today? I'll be like Oh, I'm not hungry and that was so not true. I was starving and for the most part my family kept food, but there were times when

You know the food stamps and run out and it wasn't the first of the month yet.

And I remember this time when my mom was at work my sister and I opened the refrigerator. We open the freezer and there was very little bear except for these two frozen burritos.

We've been washing the dishes and when I went to open my burrito it fell into the soapy water and I couldn't eat it.

And I remember my sister split her burrito with me.

And that's what we ate that day.

and it's something I'll never forget just

thinking about

that sharing and the necessity of sharing and dumb.

So it's really hit me during the pandemic reporting on the people who been in the lines cuz I think about it. How was frozen burritos?

and there's this tendency for people like me who've experienced poverty to not talk about it you want to forget about it like it didn't happen but if we all keep this secret it creates the stigma where there shouldn't be one

so I'm glad I'm able to talk about my family's poverty now

at least a little bit

Did anyone get where where's the truck I would be down there.

I have had the feeling that the truck is about to arrive for about 45 minutes now.

The lines gotten longer. I know I thought it was going to be over and then I'm like, oh more people have shown up now.

around 3 if it looks like

is that

the dairy truck finally arrived

how to use get to work on loading it and Mohammed starts the line moving again.

How do you feel now? I feel so good now to get that stuff today.

Don't you got to go online?

For another hour Muhammad and his dozens of volunteers Shepherd person after person through the line giving out whatever they've got left you feel about what you ended up getting today. Actually. I feel really great. They gave us the organic milk organic chocolate milk chocolate milk yogurt. It's also organic. So my kids would love that cucumbers Argos my salad. I love that too.

I find this food super healthy and I am so grateful for the opportunity to to be here and there to get the free food. Awesome. Thank you so much thick ass.

Buy for the sidewalk that have been filled with people all day.

is empty

It's all good. What do you say?

Thank God you were able to get everybody on the line?

I just don't want anybody to be turned on no cuz they're here they need.

I feel it still feels good. You know, you got to be got to count your blessings. I mean, it's a blessing for us to be in these people's lives, you know for me it definitely is this is Ali one of Copo staff members continues. I really do hope it continues after December 31st, cuz that's like that's like the cut off right now. We don't know what to do. After that. This is private Foundation to see didn't give us anything. So we're trying to get money from the city to continue this but no they doing a lot of a lot of cuts in the budget.

Somos pantries in the city operates of private funding and there are these big question marks about how they'll manage this winter when the pandemic is expected to get even worse.

In the past before the pandemic a lot of the pantries are lied on big-time contributors who could give you know, a hundred thousand five hundred thousand a million dollar and that money has kind of dried up.

I talk to this one director. He's been calling all of his big time contributors and they're saying right now they don't know what the stock market is going to do. So they don't know what they're going to be able to give.

This is all really bad news for millions of New Yorkers who are getting in line these days and tens of millions of people around the country who rely on pantries for their literal survival you show up at a pantry and you wait 4 hours and they might run out of food.

If you're struggling financially, you can give up certain things. You can give up new clothes and maybe don't give a gift to your kids or your grandkids this Christmas.

But you can't not eat.

Republic Police right this way

Just give my last ravioli.

Muhammad has been on his feet for 9 hours nonstop, and he's a little worse for wear.

Take account.

You're the bloody finger. That's okay lost voice and you have dog poop on your shoe.

But it's beautiful. There's no line.

plus sticker guys

Really? Appreciate it. Thank you.

Play good morning. Good morning, Mohamed. How are you taking my call? I know I know it's a busy time pandemic and people were making the food pantry into a routine. But now it's November. It's getting cold in the winter and the holidays.

And it feels like it would be more difficult now to wait outside the food pantry for hours and I just wonder how he felt a change in people's mood or their approach to the food pantry as it's gotten colder.

The moon hasn't changed but they're still in need. I don't know what's going to happen. But what time to purchase leave heaters never seen in the restaurants. The heaters are in the tents outside a little umbrella. We get a little bit of warmth and we're trying to see how we're going to speed it up.


What tomorrow is Friday? And so that is the food pantries day? And will you be opening turkey sending me a trailer of turkey and I'm like, oh my God, it's going to be so great. So we're going to be able to do tomorrow, and then people can be so happy.

And in terms of like because last time that the line was around the block and so are you still seeing people wait around the block? I mean, I was just listening to the news. There's no stimulus check or nothing there in a deadlock and it's it's going to be even more difficult because it's going to be finished on December 31st of the unemployment checks. Just trying the federal government's giving so it's really really more stressful what's going to happen with the people and you mentioned that your own funding could run out by the end of the year. Is that still the case? Yes for the food pantry still the case. I were actually talked to our board members and outside with donors trying to figure out how we can raise more fun, you know, we need to have happened on January 1st. If you don't have more funding, I mean my stuff when I ask them, please be volunteers for now right now. I have staph on the stove.

3456 South numbers and it might go down to like two staff members and continue on those smaller base and they're going to just window down and probably cut the hours left.

I don't know what else to do.

How are you feeling about those changes and sort of looking at the end of the year?

Okay. Well, thank you.

I want to have a good luck.

We'll be right back.

The promised land the first volume of his presidential Memoirs Barack Obama provides a deeply personal account of history in the making Obama reflects on the early years of his presidency navigating the challenges facing our nation at home and abroad he shares indelible portraits of his dedicated team world leaders and cabinet and Congress members and also Reveals His Inspirations and Quiet Moments with family. I promised land is available wherever books and audiobooks are sold visit Obama the daily for more information.

Here's what else you need to know today?

On Tuesday, Pennsylvania, Nevada and Minnesota all certified Joe Biden's election Victory rebuffing effort by President Trump to delay the process.

Those certifications combined with those in Georgia and Michigan have left Trump with few ways to block or overturn the election results.

And US Stock Market surged to record levels on Tuesday after the Trump Administration began the transfer of power to buy and after Biden appointed Janet Yellen an advocate of government intervention in the economy as his treasury secretary, which is the highest in history. We've never broken 30,000 and that's the Dow Jones industrial average at the start of the pandemic surpassed 30,000 on Tuesday a milestone that President Trump during a news conference called historic.

That is for the daily unlikable borrow. See you on Monday after the holiday.

In a Promised Land the first volume of his presidential Memoirs Barack Obama provides a deeply personal account of history in the making Obama reflects on the early years of his presidency navigating the challenges facing our nation at home and brought t-shirts indelible portraits of his dedicated team world leaders and cabinet and Congress members and also Reveals His Inspirations and Quiet Moments with family. I promised land is available wherever books in audio books are sold visit Obama the daily for more information.
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