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Mayor Vows To Fix NYC's Program To Feed The Hungry As CBS2 Continues To Uncover Problems

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- CBS2 continues to uncover even more problems with the city's multi-million dollar program to feed the hungry, and the mayor is again vowing to fix it.

The food delivery that Sam Montalvo's 90-year-old mother received from the city had some problems.

"The food was all out of the containers. It was gross. She'd rather go hungry than eat it," Montalvo told CBS2's Marcia Kramer.

Angel Vasquez, a 77-year-old diabetic, got a meal box filled with cookies and lots and lots of sweet snacks - not good for someone with his condition.


"The meal is no good for me. I don't think that meal is good for anybody, especially when people have diabetes. People like me," he said. "What am I going to do with cookies?"

There have been many other complaints since CBS2 first told you about problems with the city's $170 million program to feed the elderly, shut-ins and the food insecure. Charges of sporadic deliveries, lack of variety - one person got 18 meals all filled with corn - even complaints about grab-and-go meals filled with sandwiches, no fresh fruit or vegetables.

"Trying to get it right every day, but when something's not right, we have to fix it," Mayor Bill de Blasio said. '

Mayor de Blasio Holds Media Availability on COVID-19 by NYC Mayor's Office on YouTube

De Blasio, who has often had a tense relationship with the media, actually praised four reporters for bringing the issue to his attention.

"Marcia Kramer, CBS New York," he said. "One of the great virtues of the free press is the ability to see things, and hold government accountable."

Food czar Kathryn Garcia insists she will hold the vendors accountable.

"If we can't deliver food that you will eat then we have not solved the problem. Just to be clear, here's what I will not tolerate in this program. Any expired meals that don't meet our nutritional guidelines. Late or mis-delivery and different meals than you ordered. It's very important that you are getting something you will eat in this emergency," Garcia said.

Since the program started in March, 32 million meals have been provided, grab-and-go meals at schools and others delivered.

The number of New Yorkers who are "food insecure" has doubled to roughly two million amid the coronavirus pandemic, de Blasio said.

The mayor shared a poem from a 97-year-old woman named Sylvia, who expressed her gratitude for kosher food she received in Sheepshead Bay.

"Had to write you about your food
For a 97 year young was in the mood
To thank you for all your days
Preparing food in different ways
Thank you, thank you, I praise you all
Be gone virus, do not stall!"

Garcia said her team is committed to making sure meals are nutritious and meet people's needs, including specialized foods like kosher, halal and vegetarian.

"We have accomplished a lot in the last two months, but for me, good enough is not good enough. We want to continue to strive to make our program better, and we want to hold ourselves and our food vendors to the highest expectations," said Garcia. "We want to make sure that every meal is healthy, meets and exceeds the minimum requirements for protein, for vegetables, for grains, doesn't contain too many calories or too much sodium, that it's arriving on time and is delivered directly to your door."

She said the city is working with 30 restaurants, caterers and farms, and has fired some vendors for not meeting expectations.

Anyone looking for food can call 311 or visit

CORONAVIRUS: NY Health Dept. | NY Call 1-(888)-364-3065 | NYC Health Dept. | NYC Call 311, Text COVID to 692692 | NJ COVID-19 Info Hub | NJ Call 1-(800)-222-1222 or 211, Text NJCOVID to 898211 | CT Health Dept. | CT Call 211 | Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

In other news, De Blasio said the daily indicators were "pretty good." Hospitalizations were down from 63 to 60, ICU patients decreased from 484 to 477, but the percentage of people testing positive increased from 8 to 9%.

To put the progress in perspective, the mayor said this week's hospitalization numbers were on par with the annual average, and the percentage of positive results stayed below 15% for the last 10 days.

"I want to signal as clear as a bell: All roads are leading to the first half of June – the city indicators, the state indicators – we're seeing very clear progress," he said. "We have to sustain the progress. We all want to get there, so we all have to be a part of it."

De Blasio touched on several other topics during Thursday's briefing.

  • He said the NYPD is gearing up for its annual "Summer All-Out" initiative, placing 300 officers in 10 communities that have been troubled by gun violence.
  • He also said 201 homeless people accepted shelter placement in the first week of the overnight subway closures, with 102 of them staying for the week. Another 181 accepted help in the second week, and 113 stayed.
  • The mayor said he spoke with leaders of the construction, real estate and infrastructure sectors last night about restarting the economy and creating jobs.
  • He also said the Staten Island Ferry will start ramping up service to meet the demand and help people socially distance. As of this afternoon, ferries will run every 30 minutes during peak times from 5 to 9 a.m. and 3:30 to 7:30 p.m.
  • De Blasio encouraged people to use the hashtag #GoingGreenForParkies to thank the parks department for its work during the crisis, even sporting an NYC Parks cap.
  • In closing, he once again asked people to donate blood by calling 800-933-2566 or visiting He said he and First Lady Chirlane McCray were going this afternoon.
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