Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit New York City in March 2020, the number of people facing food insecurity is estimated to have increased by a staggering 38%, with one in four children unsure of where their next meal will come from. In the early months of the pandemic, healthcare workers at NewYork-Presbyterian were struck by the struggles experienced by their patients, including job loss, medication rationing and food insecurity.
In response to the growing food insecurity crisis in the community, NewYork-Presbyterian sought to grow its Food Farmacy program. Leadership worked with Nido de Esperanza, Rena Day Care Centers, Inc. and the Mexican Coalition for the Empowerment of Youth and Families to expand the program’s food distribution efforts in northern Manhattan from one site to four. They also teamed up with organizations in lower Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn and Westchester County to increase the program’s geographical reach and provide food to more patients and community members in need.
Patients and community members are referred to the Food Farmacy program by their NewYork-Presbyterian healthcare provider or community-based organization staff if they screen positive for food insecurity. They then meet with a food distribution staff member at one of the local organizations, who not only helps participants enroll in the Food Farmacy but also assists in connecting them to social support services and other non-food-related needs.
Between mid-March 2020, and April 2021, NewYork-Presbyterian went from serving 190 families to nearly 7,000 households across the region. In total, the program has distributed more than 1.1 million pounds of healthy food in the past year. The program has also created job opportunities for local youth who are hired to distribute the food, and they’ve set up a help line to better respond to the neighborhood’s needs.