THE FOOD LINE, Alleviating Hunger and Spreading the Coronavirus

Food line. Hester Street Playground. May 29 2020

This is the line to get food in front of Hester Street Playground and these are boxes of food inside a hallway.

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This may be one way the Coronavirus is still spreading during the lock down. People in overcrowded situations anxious to get their food, ignore safe distancing measures and food and packaging, possibly contaminated by the virus, is brought into homes and buildings.

I have been monitoring the food line at the Hester Street Playground in Chinatown closely for several Fridays. I have a relative nearby and am worried about a situation I see as unsafe. The crowding in line could be easily remedied by placing chalk marks to indicate social distance on the sidewalk before the line begins to form and/or using monitors to make sure distance is observed.

When the food distribution first began several weeks ago, there were fewer people and everyone received a box of food. Two Fridays ago, I observed the whole process over a seven hour period. There were around three hundred people that came for food over the course of the day, and the line, thick with people, extended down the entire block. Roughly half of the people were able to get a box of food.

Description: Macintosh HD:Users:janaleo:Desktop:CORONAVIRUS:FOOD LINE CHINATOWN:food line may 29 :the food line_files:image005low.png
Description: Macintosh HD:Users:janaleo:Desktop:CORONAVIRUS:FOOD LINE CHINATOWN:food line may 29 :the food line_files:image007low.jpg

The people in line risked their own health, and the health of those they live with, for a box of food if they were lucky, or a gallon of milk or a package of noodles and exposure to the Coronavirus if they weren’t.

When the food began to run out, small black plastic bags with fewer items were distributed, when those began to run out, a one-pound package of rice or a package of beans was given, one to a person. When the line reached its end, only milk was available, one gallon per person, meant to last a week.

Now the line begins to form at 8 am. People mark their spots with plastic bags. By noon the line is congested and conflicts erupt among those who wait. I called the Police and 311 to report the safe distancing violation without result. Much later, some of the people distributing food try painting lines on the pavement every two feet. I had previously e-mailed the community police and the City Council office, to no effect.

The food delivery people mark the floor when they arrive but by that time people has been in line several hours and the separation draw between chalk lines is 2 feet, not 6 feet.

People in line are anxious for a reason. Only a certain number of them will get food. The news reports question the why, how and where of the spread of the Coronavirus. Perhaps it is through food lines like this one in Chinatown or the ones in the Bronx, that have something to do with it.  Is there a link between food lines and drop offs and the people checking into emergency rooms because of the Coronavirus?

It is 1:46 p.m. and the truck has not yet arrived. Will everyone get a share today?. Now it is 4:16 p.m. Most people received a box of food, but for those at the end of the line, there are only packages of noodles. Now, the neighbor of my relative has five boxes of food she’s managed to gather, and I wonder whether included in those, will be the Coronavirus.

People are still getting COVID 19 because of inequality and lack of organization. Just look in the streets and you will see why the virus is spreading. Hungry people are willing to crowd together to receive food and neither the Councils nor  the Mayor, nor the Governor do anything but continue to deliver boxes of food and with them, the possibility of contagion from the deadly Coronavirus.

City Council, Mayor, Governor, Community Police: please put some work into assuring us that food distribution includes safe distancing in its operation.

Jana Leo

Friday May 29th 2020

Edited by Keith McDermott

New York

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