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Navigating Coronavirus: Citymeals On Wheels Says Food Is Going Fast And It Needs More Donations And Volunteers

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Citymeals on Wheels is kicking into high gear to make sure senior citizens isolated during the coronavirus pandemic don't go hungry.

As CBS2's Natalie Duddridge reported Thursday, the organization is focusing its efforts on packing emergency boxes.

A 25,000 square-foot warehouse in Hunts Point In the Bronx is stacked up to the rafters with food, a full year's supply. But Citymeals has been going through it faster than it ever has and that means it need more help and donations, too.

"We have brown rice. We have apple sauce, green beans," worker Ottis Lewis said.

Lewis packs emergency food boxes that he'll deliver to isolated seniors.

"It's really needed. A lot of people are going through it right now," Lewis said.

FLASHBACK: Citymeals On Wheels Overcoming Obstacles As It Navigates Pandemic To Feed New Yorkers

Since the pandemic began, Citymeals has handed out double a year's worth of food in just six months.

"Just since March, Citymeals has delivered over 1.4 million meals -- 700,000 of those are emergency meals that have come from here," executive director Beth Shapiro said.


The organization has added 2,500 seniors to its delivery routes, feeding a total of 20,000 elderly New Yorkers who can't shop or cook for themselves.

Many relied on seniors centers that are now closed due to COVID-19. Some have chronic illnesses and can't risk trips outdoors.

"A lot of the seniors, like many people, are scared to leave their house to get food," said Liz Cantillo of the Citymeals Emergency Distribution Center. "We are delivering three to four routes every single day throughout the five boroughs, where a year ago we were maybe doing one route."

That means Citymeals had to doubled its staff and volunteers, not only to keep up but to prepare for the next six months, knowing they are thousands of vulnerable people's last resort.

"You want to stay positive, but the reality is the reality. It can get worse," Lewis said.

In all, 1 in 7 seniors are living in poverty and that number continues to rise dramatically. But the good news is there is also a record numbers of volunteers -- at least 5,000 with Citymeals alone.

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