NEW YORK - Like most yellow taxi drivers in New York, the last few months have been tough for Jacques Jean Baptiste. Because the pandemic is keeping many people at home and visitors away, making ends meet gets harder by the day for him. 

"The money is hard, especially when you're not working and the expenses always stay the same," said Jacques Jean Baptiste.

What You Need To Know

  • 1.2 million New Yorkers were experiencing food insecurity before COVID-19. There has been a 40% increase since the pandemic started 

  • GrowNYC Emergency Fresh Food Boxes Program was launched March 2020 to help feed New Yorkers during crisis

  • There are nearly two-dozen free food box distribution locations across New York City

Baptiste is a father of five children. With little income coming in, any help he can get is appreciated. On Saturday, he was among dozens of Brooklyn residents who got boxes filled with fresh produce, canned goods and other groceries.

"It helps because sometimes you don't know what you're going to eat. At least they give you something to eat," he said.

The Flatlands Reformed Church is among the nearly two-dozen locations in the five boroughs taking part in the Grow NYC Emergency Fresh Food Boxes program. The city-funded initiative was started back in March. The event in Brooklyn marked the millionth meal, delivered to New Yorkers in need during the pandemic. 

"When COVID-19 hit the city, we sort of anticipated that there were going to be families that would be impacted; some of the most vulnerable people in the city, like immigrants, people who live in food deserts," said program manager, Danielle Foster-Russell.

According to city, 1.2 million New Yorkers were experiencing food insecurity before COVID-19 and that number has increased by almost 40% due to the pandemic.

"People who are newly unemployed or are just taking to heart the need to stay home and really protect themselves - for them, getting access to food can be very challenging," said Kate McKenzie, the director of the Mayor's Office of Food Policy.

A lot of the food in the boxes comes from regional farmers and local food suppliers that are also experiencing losses because of the health crisis, an effort to help as much of the region as possible.

"It brings people together. You're never too old to say sharing is caring. This is how we feel that the community cares about us," Chereen Dixon.