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COVID-19\Anti-Hunger Efforts]
Rep. Velazquez: “All of us need to pull together in this unprecedented time and this bill will help our local community organizations pair with the restaurant sector to meet the nutritional needs of our neighbors.”
Photo: Facebook

Legislation authored by Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY) would establish a new program to help meet staffing shortages at anti-hunger nonprofit organizations in New York City and throughout the nation.

Under the bill, the “Community Meals Fund”, nonprofits could qualify for grants of $500,000 to partner with small and mid-sized restaurants for the preparation and distribution of food to vulnerable populations.

COVID-19 is affecting all Americans, but, as is the case with most crises, our most vulnerable neighbors will undoubtedly suffer the greatest hardship,” Velázquez noted. “Many of our nonprofit anti-hunger organizations were stretched thin before the virus hit and the coming months will mean even greater challenges. This bill will meet the dual goals of assisting New York’s and our nation’s restaurant workers and industry, while using their experience and skill to channel food to the hungry.”

New York's restaurant industry employs over 300,000 people and produces about $50 billion per year, revenue that the local economy will see greatly curtailed as restaurants are forced to close or drastically scale back operations. Meanwhile, many charitable organizations are concerned about declines in volunteerism as individuals and particularly older people seek to self-quarantine or practice social distancing. Likewise, nonprofits anticipate reductions in donations as the virus’ effects continue reverberating through the broader economy. This nonprofit capacity reduction comes when demand for free and low-cost food is expected to soar as Americans grapple with job loss and a decline in retirement funds’ values.

New York City is a culinary capital and the workers in that industry are extraordinarily talented, hardworking and profoundly committed to their communities,” Velázquez added. “All of us need to pull together in this unprecedented time and this bill will help our local community organizations pair with the restaurant sector to meet the nutritional needs of our neighbors.”

Velázquez’s bill would provide $20 million in grants to nonprofit organizations that meet hunger needs. The bill will enable nonprofits and antihunger groups to hire restaurant staff to store, prepare, cook, and help package, serve, or deliver meals to vulnerable populations during a public health emergency. This would provide an economic boost for restaurant industry workers, while allowing them to help address vital community needs.

“For more than three decades, the restaurant industry has been our strongest ally. Chefs, restaurants and culinary professionals devote their time and talents to help us end childhood hunger – and that hasn’t stopped since the onset of this pandemic,” said Lisa Davis, senior vice president of Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign. “Now it’s our turn to lend a helping hand back to them. The Community Meals Fund would provide the restaurant industry with critical support during this time of need while also helping some of the hardest-hit communities.”

In this difficult time, I’ve personally been inspired seeing New Yorkers and Americans of all walks of life join together to assist one another,” Velázquez concluded. “With this bill, we’ll build on that resourcefulness, helping local charities leverage the skills of our culinary professionals to help those in need.”

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