Pantry boxes with extra goodies provided by the Corona Relief Food Box. Photo by Syed Haq

An urban farm brings relief amid the pandemic

As the city tries to recover from the economic and personal losses caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, a tiny urban farm overshadowed by neighboring buildings at 972 Simpson Street in Longwood looks to feed area residents hit hardest by the crises.

“It has to very much do with the fact that this is exacerbating food scarcity that has already existed in the city,” said Jackie Torres, food box coordinator for The Black Feminist Project, which runs Libertad Urban Farm at that location. “We understand that healthy food is largely inaccessible in New York City, specifically to black people, specifically to brown people.”

The Corona relief Food Box pantry, a bi-weekly event held at the black Joy Farm on Fridays, was initiated just as the City imposed a shutdown in March by the project’s executive director and founder Tanya Denise Fields, to provide nutritious food for area residents . Produce comes mainly from the recently established Grow NYC project to grow food on Governor’s Island for city residents. 

“We’ve had a partnership with them for a while now and they’ve been one of our biggest supporters,” said Torres, adding that the food boxes are delivered as needed with “big leafy, lovely greens.”

Along with the assistance from Grow NYC, Food Box also grows its own produce at the farm, including kale, squash and collard greens. The farm also participates in a brown egg sharing program.

“We serve about 50 (families) per distribution,” said Torres, adding that the program is equipped to feed up to 100 people. Residents receive boxes with farm fresh greens, cereals, and extra goodies such as apple sauce. Sometimes the content of the boxes adhere to a specific recipe.

“This week, for example, was a tenderloin harvest thing,” said Torres. That included chicken breast and added cinnamon with apples in the weekly giveaway, adding that the food is sold well below what it would cost at the store, so that residents can eat well without breaking the bank. 

The cost of a box is set at $60, but recipients are not required to pay full price, thanks to a city subsidy. 

“They can donate what they can or they could get it for free if they need to,” said Torres.

Those who can’t afford the full price can donate between up to $20 to the program, without having to worry about anything being excluded from the box. 

But food scarcity and other hardships sharpened by the pandemic are just the most visible scars in a longstanding battle for South Bronx residents, said Torres.

“It is only bringing to light facts of life that people have dealt with for a really long time,” she said.