Universal calls for police reform and to heal the wound of racial injustices across the city haven’t quelled the flurry of other problems the COVID-19 outbreak brought to the forefront. Businesses are still struggling, there’s no vaccine, and residents are still hungry, in more ways than one.
Pakistani American Youth Society, in partnership with Black Lives Matter Brooklyn Branch President Anthony Beckford, numerous city officials, and various community-based organizations, haven’t forgotten. On the corner of Nostrand and Foster Avenues, they continued to distribute free hot meals, census materials, hand sanitizer, Saturday, for their ‘Come Break Bread With Us’ in the Flatbush Community Initiative.
Zakary Kahn, owner of Gyro King, initially launched the food program to hand out halal meals during Ramadan. He said when they saw the need in the community they decided to expand the project.
They’ve served hundreds of meals every day since the end of April. They are working from two locations: a mobile truck and stationery store at Newkirk and Coney Island Avenue.
“This could be the most effective and cheapest way to feed the people who are in need right now, especially, since there’s a lot of food insecurity in so many areas,” said Kahn.
“I was out here making meals myself, going grocery shopping for a lot of community members, making hand sanitizer and handing out masks, but as being a lone person with my group we didn’t have the capacity,” said Beckford, who’s also a city council candidate for the 45th District. “We reached out to our brothers across the way down Coney Island Avenue because they were out here already in their community and other communities with four carts and one mobile truck.”
Beckford said he’s excited about the additional support and that people are being fed.
East Flatbush is a food desert, said Councilwoman Farah Louis (D-East Flatbush, Flatbush, Flatlands, Marine Park, and Midwood), and she hopes that this will be an ongoing project not just during a time of crisis and duress.
“This is an opportunity for us to revive this area,” said Louis, “We recently worked with the Mayor and we were able to provide a food pantry program to Flatbush Gardens, that’s one of the largest complexes in my district.”
Senator Kevin Parker (D-East Flatbush, Flatbush, Midwood, Ditmas Park, Kensington, Park Slope, and Windsor Terrace) said even though we’re in the middle of a global pandemic simultaneously dealing with the issue of police reform, it’s great that officials and organizations are still coming together locally to serve neighborhoods.
Another linchpin for the event was the emphasis on the census.
“We’re really trying to make sure people understand that in the midst of this, that the census is critical to fill out. So we want people to engage in that. We have an undercount right now, even compared to 10 years ago,” said Parker, “Again, the census provides money, provides representation.”
With the census deadline pushed back to Oct. 31, Parker said he wanted to reiterate that the census is a lockbox where individual data goes in but no one has access to it.