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COVID-19 contributed to the structural and historical inequalities that already existed in the Bronx. The Bronx Community Foundation provided funding to try to address some of the inequalities. In this report, we assessed efforts to address food insecurity during the pandemic. The Lehman Lab for Social Analysis trained a group of Lehman College students, most of them Bronxites, to evaluate the impact of those efforts by local organizations on food security in the Bronx on their communities.
The students that participated in this research conducted interviews and engaged in participant observation to write this report. The participants collected qualitative data during the summer of 2021 and by participating in this project, they enhanced their transferable skills and obtained a better understanding of the Bronx.
Our study revealed that the organizations funded in this grant program are truly on the front lines of both the pandemic and food insecurity in the Bronx. This grant program was successful in identifying and supporting BIPOC and Bronxite-led organizations that have close ties to their communities. The organizations evaluated here have served their communities nobly, in spite of significant hurdles: space, funding and staffing. Many of the organizations lack sufficient or secure physical space for their operations. They struggle with rent and in some cases debt due to the costs of securing physical space. The spaces they have are sometimes inadequate to their expanded programming: pallets of produce take up a lot more room than a previously small-scale food pantry might have or a landlord is no longer comfortable with an expansion of services and refuses to renew a lease. Also, virtually all of the organizations are entirely or mostly run by volunteers who juggle their commitments with their own responsibilities in their places of work and families. Further, the changing landscape of state and federal support have made the work more challenging. Since the federal government declared an end to the pandemic state of emergency in July, many federal funding sources dried up. Similarly, New York City and State funded resources have lessened, even while these organizations report continued high demand for their services. They are struggling to sustain a greatly expanded matrix of services in spite of reduced resources.
Nonetheless, the organizations here represent and serve resilient, energetic, dynamic and committed communities that deserve more resources and support.