Senaira Alvarez joined the line snaking along New Utrecht Avenue Tuesday morning, waiting to pick up food essentials from the Masbia pantry in Borough Park ahead of Thanksgiving.
Alvarez sought help for her family of five after both she and her husband lost their jobs at the start of the coronavirus outbreak in March.
“Thanks to people like them we’ll have some food to survive,” Alvarez said after picking up sliced turkey, cooking oil, pasta, canned beans and bread.
“There’s nothing to do this holiday season, even if we wanted to,” she added. “We don’t have enough to share with a larger community.”
The pandemic has increased the ranks of those facing food insecurity. A recent Robin Hood report found that nearly one-third of New Yorkers reported using a food pantry in the previous 12 months, compared to 12% pre-pandemic.
Here’s a look at how one Brooklyn pantry is providing relief at the start of a uniquely challenging holiday season:
Masbia employees piled supplies on three tables outside the pantry while people started to pick up food at 7 a.m. Tuesday. The pantry has been operating 24 hours, Sunday through Thursday, during the outbreak.
The pantry gave away about a dozen whole turkeys in the morning.
The pantry served about 100 people Tuesday morning. Some regular clients travel from across the city, Masbia workers said. For Staten Islanders who use mass transit, it can take two hours to get to the pantry.
A security guard took temperatures of staffers and anyone else who needed to enter the pantry’s storefront.
Masbia gave away additional turkey products ahead of the holiday.
Ashraf Ashour noted the pantry is one the few places he can pick up halal food.
“I haven’t worked since March and we need this food to get us through the holidays,” Ashour said after getting supplies for his family of three and two neighbors in Midwood who were unable to leave their homes.
Pantry worker Carolina Sanchez quickly restocks food.
Masbia sets appointments for people to pick up supplies using an app called Plentiful. The service allows residents to set a time using one of seven languages. But there can still be some language barriers once they arrive, said pantry director Alexander Rapaport.
“I’ve been coming here since the start of the pandemic when I was left jobless,” said Sunset Park resident Rufina Lopez, a former kitchen worker who helps support three children.
“I don’t know what can be done to save this holiday season,” she added. “I’ll be at home spending time with the people I live with, only the people I live with.”
Masbia food pantry workers stacked recently delivered food at 8 a.m. along New Utrecht Avenue, readying for a full day of supporting a city devastated by a virus.