Food, Health, and Vaccine Equity at the Arab-American Family Support Center

August 13, 2021

Even though the city began its reopening process, the COVID-19 Pandemic continues to impact many immigrant and refugee communities throughout New York City. In this last year, we have collectively seen how economic and health inequities deeply affect the Arab, Asian, Black, and Latinx communities. In fact, for the communities we work with at the Arab-American Family Support Center, we have seen an increased need for food safety and security, rental assistance, and more. Our SNAP Enrollment program experienced a 357% increase in demand, and applications for our Emergency Relief Fund – which provides emergency payments to families facing financial crisis – has distributed over $430,000 in aid, impacting over 2,3000 community members and covering emergency costs including food, rent, utilities, childcare needs, and materials families need to remain safe and well.  

Food insecurity is often exacerbated and driven by several factors, such as poverty. Inadequate access to consistently healthy foods can lead to chronic disease, malnutrition, and poor mental health for many of our communities. The Arab-American Family Support Center is committed to addressing the racial and health inequities within the communities we serve by addressing the negative social determinants of health.  

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, AAFSC has assisted over 1,180 individuals enroll in SNAP, connect with New York City’s GetFood program and has hosted culturally appropriate food distributions for our community members. On July 28, AAFSC partnered with the New York City Health and Hospitals Mobile COVID-19 Clinic, Astoria Welfare Society, and Queens Together to distribute over 120 bags of food and provide free, on-site COVID-19 vaccinations to community members outside our Brooklyn Headquarters. Understanding that community members face barriers scheduling appointments for the vaccine or finding an accessible walk-in clinic, AAFSC is prioritizing bringing vaccinations directly to communities and providing high-quality information to those who expressed vaccine hesitation. Our food distribution efforts, which provide pantry staples, fresh produce, and halal food, are channeling essential aid during a time when families still experience food insecurity, and as many families cannot access traditional food pantry resources due to religious dietary practices.  

We thank our local partners that have helped us provide healthy and nutritious food to our communities, such as Nile Deli, the Yemeni Merchants Association, Astoria Welfare Society, and Queens Together, and we thank New York Health and Hospitals in providing easy access to the vaccine along with educational resources. Through these partnerships, AAFSC is proud promote the health and well-being of vulnerable families living in New York City. 

AAFSC is committed to continue working with community partners to ensure all immigrants and refugees have access to healthy and nutritious food, accessible healthcare, and more.