On any given day in Bushwick, you’re likely to encounter a line of people circling a building with their carts at a food pantry. The New York City Food Policy Center reports that 17% of Bushwick residents face food insecurity. The lack of affordable supermarkets in the neighborhood isn’t a secret: for every supermarket in the area, there are 31 bodegas that may be more convenient to travel to but don’t offer all the nutritional options available at supermarkets. 

Though 2019 research gathered by the NYU Furman Center showed a median annual household income of $67,410, the reality is that the largest number of Bushwick households, 24.2%, made less than $20,000. According to 2019 census data, 20.7% of people living in Bushwick are below the poverty line, about 1.5 times the poverty rate in New York City. Naturally, the pandemic has made this even worse.

An attempt to combat food scarcity is underway in Bushwick — the Food Retail Expansion to Support Health (FRESH) program. Launched in 2009 by the Department of City Planning in response to a 2008 study that reveals the shortage of supermarkets and neighborhood grocery stores throughout the city, the program provides zoning and financial incentives to supermarket operators and developers to bring them into lower-income and underserved communities. 

Thanksgiving food distribution at Bushwick Methodist Church, 1139 Bushwick Ave, organized by Ujima. They hold food pantries every Monday. 

Under this program, three new FRESH supermarkets are coming to Bushwick. They will be located at 54 Noll St., 1389 Broadway Ave., and 605 Hart St. Tentative opening dates have not been released.

However, there is no way to measure how these supermarkets will mitigate the issue of food scarcity for residents in the area. 

“There is a difference between having a policy and being effective on the ground,” said Celeste Leon, district manager of Community Board 4, in an interview with Univision. “As far as I know, there is no formal mechanism to ensure that food is affordable.”

The only way to see if the supermarkets will live up to the FRESH program’s mission is to wait until they’re open. But as Bushwick continues to search for a long-term, sustainable solution, the neighborhood offers numerous food pantries and weekly food distributions via local organizations, volunteer groups and non-profits. 

The Food Bank of New York City has a comprehensive map of food pantries throughout the five boroughs where you can also sign up for alerts for mobile food pantries. You can find community fridges in the Bushwick area by visiting NYC Community Fridges and using this interactive map.

For a complete list of food pantries in the neighborhood, visit the NYC Food Policy Center website, which also provides a list of supermarkets, bodegas, grocery stores and delis in the area that also offer delivery. Bushwick Daily has also recently released an article that compares the average pricing per shopping trip of many of the area’s grocery stores.  

Fresh produce sold outside Mr. Lemon.

Community centers that offer weekly or biweekly food distributions include the Collective Focus Hub, Comida Pal Pueblo, El Puente and Paperboy Love Prince’s space at 1254 Myrtle Ave.

If you know of a local organization that offers food distribution not listed here, please feel free to email me to expand this list. 

Images provided by Allie Herrera.

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