This year, Masbia was in the news almost eighty times. The news stories at the very beginning of the year started off with happiness, hope and positivity. In January there was a bridge building event for the MLK Day of Service mentioned in HuffPost, JTA, Hamodia and News12. February brought news of bat mitzvah girl Leora, daughter of Masbia’s co-chair Naomi Nachman, who was having a Challah Ingredient Challenge with a goal to feed one thousand families on News12. The NYPD Explorers volunteering to help those in need on Presidents' Day was featured on News12 as well as NY1. There was also Hamodia’s story of the Fish-to-Dish Challenge.
March started off well, with plans (News12) for feeding the hungry for Purim (NY1). Likewise, the ED, Alexander Rapaport, started planning in the beginning of March for the food supply being interrupted due to the outbreak of the pandemic, see JTA and NYTimes.
Then COVID hit New York and Masbia started a major historic mobilization of emergency food relief. In the days, weeks and months following, the news stories covered different stages of the necessary ways Masbia had to adapt to provide COVID emergency food relief safely. This Lilith interview captures the initial mobilization quite well.
It started by canceling sit-down dinners and serving ready-to-eat meals to-go only and distributing pantry packages with enough food to last fourteen days - the time needed to quarantine (NY1). Limited delivery service for those who were already quarantined was also announced (Bklyner). While the challenges were enormous, there were some breaks, as well. The airline industry being shut down meant that tens of thousands of frozen, ready-to-eat meals became available. They were even Kosher for Passover (Forward).
In April came Passover, a time when Masbia usually sees an increase in demand (TPM / AP Images). Masbia spearheaded a rabbinical plea for emergency charity (BoroPark24 / Mishpacha) and circulated rabbinical reminders against price-gouging as well. The demand was so great that Masbia’s food supply was wiped clean for Passover. In order to open right after Passover, World Central Kitchen helped with a pop-up farmers’ market (NY1). At the end of April, Masbia announced a new initiative to help all local families who lost their breadwinners to COVID with free groceries from the grocery store. See Hamodia, Forward, Algermeiner, Mishpacha, BoroPark24, and Tablet.
Demand for cooked meals to-go in Boro Park was so great that Masbia got four neighboring take-out stores to cook for the clientele. See Hamodia and i24 News.
By May Masbia was dealing with a 500 percent increase in demand. (Getty Images) Councilmember Brad Lander’s video tweet of the long line at Masbia of Flatbush got 400,000 views. Fresh dairy products were made available thanks to the Governor’s new initiative called Nourish NY. The initiative was to help farmers, emergency food providers, and those facing food insecurity due to the changes brought on by the pandemic. Just in time for the holiday of Shavuot. (NY1, News12, Jewish Press) Steve Lipman from the NY Jewish Week wrote a cover page story about Masbia’s Covid mobilization. You can read it here. (Sadly, their print edition has been discontinued due to the added pressures of COVID.)
In the summer, Masbia launched the Trailer Drive (Kosher.com) due to the extraordinary increase in demand (NY1). Their transition from a first-come first-served pantry system to an appointment-only one using the Plentiful app, as well as changes to the hours of operation were covered on Fox5 and in the Bklyner, On Labor Day, Masbia did a food rescue in Union Square. (NY1, WNYC) Masbia also introduced a tech support hotline for those having trouble navigating the system to set up an appointment. (Jewish Press)
With the High Holidays approaching, Masbia was in the media showing the large outdoor dining space that had been built at the Boro Park location in preparation for Rosh Hashanah so holiday meals could be served outside while maintaining social distance guidelines (CBS, NY1 News12, NYDN/Getty Images). NYC started a new COVID initiative for fresh produce and chose to launch it with Masbia (The City, Fox5).
It was during the month of October that Masbia was featured in a NYTimes article that was months in the making. Read here. For behind the scenes of the NYT story in the making click here. Masbia's presence in the media in autumn was regarding the transition to being open 24-hours a day Sunday through Friday as one of the ways to deal with the 500 percent increase in demand. (Pix11, Fox5, NY1, News12, BoroPark24, Jerusalem Post)
November was focused on the measures taken to serve as many hungry New Yorkers food for Thanksgiving as possible (Marketplace, The City, i24News in French). Miriam L. Wallach interviewed Masbia’s ED on “That’s Life”. You can listen here. Queens Daily Eagle wrote about the Amazon wish list, here.
In December, Masbia’s ED spoke with young students of Nefesh Yehudi Academy (JL). Masbia was also featured in articles about celebrating Hanukkah in the midst of a pandemic with traditional holiday food added to the usual raw food pantry items.(ABC7, Bklyner)
You - the donors - made this all Happen!
At the beginning of this missive, it said the year started off with happiness, hope, and positivity. The truth is, throughout the pandemic, even though the focus was on how Masbia was managing to feed so many people who were experiencing food insecurity due to COVID and all the changes they had to endure, happiness, hope and positivity were there throughout. Masbia has always hoped to be able to continue to stand in the gap. There was positivity provided by generous people who gave their support - whether by check or by ordering items from Masbia’s Amazon wishlist. The people on Masbia’s breadlines getting food for their families experienced some happiness in being able to put food on the table and have one less thing to worry about.
See below more photos at Masbia Soup Kitchen Network in the news during Covid-19: