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Food pantry staff and volunteers are now eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine

Queens Together, local restaurants, and The First Baptist Church serve hundreds of fresh hot meals and frozen food to families facing food insecurity. (Photo by Gabriele Holtermann)

Food pantry, food bank and grab-and-go sites staff and volunteers are now eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, following a push spearheaded by Queens Assemblywoman Jessica González-Rojas and Manhattan Assemblywoman Linda B. Rosenthal.

The frontline workers were added to New York’s Phase 1B after the lawmakers sent a letter to Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Feb. 23, which nearly three dozen fellow Assembly members signed.

They emphasized how food insecurity has “continued to soar” as the pandemic continues to impact communities, citing City Harvest’s estimates that there are more than 1.5 million New Yorkers struggling to feed themselves and their families — a 38 percent increase over pre-pandemic figures.

“In recognition of the vital and lifesaving work they perform, food pantry and food bank staff and volunteers were deemed essential during the height of the pandemic. And to their credit, despite the risk to themselves and their families, these dedicated and brave New Yorkers showed up for work each day to ensure that food-insecure New Yorkers could eat and feed their families,” the letter reads.

Leaders of nonprofits who have set up emergency food pantries and initiatives advocated for the vaccine eligibility for weeks before the announcement, according to THE CITY. But it’s still unclear exactly which workers may qualify for the vaccine, including whether mutual aid groups are among those eligible.

New York has administered more than 4 million first and second doses as of March 2.

Eligibility for the vaccine in Phase 1B has been expanded to include staff and residents of homeless shelters, restaurant workers and food delivery workers.

For more information on vaccine eligibility or to schedule an appointment at a state-run site, visit am-i-eligible.covid19vaccine.health.ny.gov.

To find vaccination sites and appointments in the city, visit vaccinefinder.nyc.gov.

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