YFCNJ and Chivona Newsome: Conversation on The People's Food Program

Background: When New York City became the global epicenter of Covid-19 in March, the effects on low-income residents were drastic: not only were poor, minority citizens more likely than whites to contract and die from Covid-19, but they were also more likely to suffer from unemployment and financial stress. These issues were especially prevalent in the Bronx, where many residents struggled to receive food benefits because the city was overwhelmed with the sudden, great amount of people needing governmental aid.

Recognizing the social and economic turmoil in the city’s poor communities, Chivonna Newsome and Black Lives Matter Greater New York created the People’s Food Program, which distributed fresh produce and canned goods to the Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens.

How the Program Operated: The People’s Food Program was completely grassroots, which meant that it relied solely on monetary donations. By creating awareness about the issues that poor New Yorkers faced through her platform, Chivona Newsome raised over $50,000 for the program on GoFundMe. With these funds, the Program served over 200 needy people on a daily basis.

On a given day, Newsome and her team would drive several cars to a local wholesaler and would purchase the needed groceries. After bagging the groceries and loading them to their cars, they would deliver them to clients’ doorsteps, adjusting the amount of food to distribute based upon a household’s family size and need.

The Program’s Importance: By going door-to-door with free resources, Newsome and her team strengthened community bonds. At a time when most residents were suffering from extreme food insecurity, Newsome and her team filled an important gap in the city’s response to Covid-19: ensuring the emotional well-being of its underprivileged residents. On a delivery day, Newsome would frequently hold conversations with residents about the issues that mattered to them the most; by listening to their concerns, Newsome was able to represent the people in her congressional campaign and political debates.

Next Steps: Youth for Change NJ and Chivona Newsome are looking forwards towards potentially initiating a sanitary product donation drive in the Bronx alongside ReBronx, a student-led homeless services organization. Stay tuned on our Instagram (@youth4changenj)!