NEW YORK (CBSNewYork)Mayor Bill de Blasio said Wednesday New York City is launching a $170 million new initiative to tackle food insecurity amid the coronavirus pandemic.

It’s a massive plan to make sure all New Yorkers have food in their bellies – a huge effort to stock food pantries and provide free meals to seniors and out-of-work new Yorkers, no matter where they live.

City food czar Kathryn Garcia put it succinctly.

“We will not let any New Yorker go hungry. We will not compound the tragedy of the pandemic with the tragedy of hunger,” Garcia said.

“Whoever you are, wherever you are, we’re here for you. And there should be no shame,” de Blasio said. “You don’t have to think twice, and of course it’s free.”

WATCH: Mayor de Blasio, Food Czar Kathryn Garcia Outline Food Insecurity Initiative

They city says that even before coronavirus struck, 1.1 million New Yorkers were food insecure. Add to that the approximately 500,000 New Yorkers who recently lost their jobs and see their money running out. He said the current crisis is “an unprecedented time.”

“So for more and more New Yorkers, we’re hearing this all the time, people are literally asking ‘Where’s my next meal coming from?'” de Blasio said. “I want to affirm to everyone out there who is feeling that fear, to everyone who is dealing with that problem even if they couldn’t have imagined just weeks ago that they would be dealing with it, here is the simple mission of New York City government, and I pledge to you, and I’m very confident in making this pledge, we will not allow any New Yorker to go hungry.”

ARE YOU RUNNING OUT OF FOOD?

“I hope everyone listening will understand, literally, we will not let anyone go hungry. And if anybody in your life needs food, we will get it to them. We have to make sure that word is spread,” de Blasio said. “We need to make sure everyone gets that message.”

De Blasio announced a $170 million initiative “to make sure every New Yorker gets what they need and no New Yorker goes hungry.”

CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC

De Blasio said that he expects the amount New Yorkers who will need food will continue to grow as time goes forward. In April alone, 10 million meals are expected to be served to New Yorkers for free, he said. That number is expected grow to 10-15 million in May.

As part of the initiative, the city has hired 11,000 out of work for-hire vehicle drivers to deliver food to people who can’t get out.

“These drivers are doing that, helping us feed people, they’re being paid by the shift, so they’re getting money back in their pockets so they can feed their families in turn,” the mayor said.

WEB EXTRA: See The Mayor’s Presentation On Food Insecurity (.pdf)

The plan will also include $25 million for food pantries and soup kitchens, and $50 million to purchase 18 million “shelf stable” meals in case of temporary food supply disruptions.

“In the next phase of the emergency delivery program, we are going to concentrate on registering entire buildings, senior affordable housing, senior NYCHA buildings,” Garcia said.

“I want to make sure New Yorkers are clear: Our supply chain is stable,” said Garcia. “The supply chain is adjusting to what we decided to buy that was very, very different than what we had ever bought before, so it is rapidly adjusting.”

Grocery stores are also included in the plan. The mayor pledged to get protective gear for workers. He said stores should require customers to wear face coverings.

CBS2’s Marcia Kramer asked the mayor how that would be enforced.

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

“Since you asked all people going into supermarkets to wear masks, will you ask the NYPD to enforce it?” Kramer asked.

“We’re talking about things like bandanas, scarves or the kind of masks you can buy, you know, in a hardware store,” de Blasio said. “The store has every right to enforce that rule… if there’s any problem with that, of course the NYPD would help.

He likened his suggestion to store owners to a pandemic equivalent of the signs most folks were familiar with that read “no shirt, no shoes, no service.”

De Blasio also gave a shoutout to former Mayor Mike Bloomberg for donating $6 million to help feed city health care workers.

PHOTO GALLERY: A Look Inside NYC’s Viral ‘Warzone’

De Blasio said the three leading indicators of the spread of coronavirus showed a “mixed bag” as of April 13.

  • There were 370 hospital admissions, up from 326 on April 12.
  • 868 people in ICUs, up from 850
  • Perceentage of people who were tested citywide that came back positive is 53%, down from 60%
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