BRONX, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Volunteers at a food pantry in the Bronx say demand for groceries has exploded. They worry it will only get worse if relief measures end.

Betty Gustino picks up fresh groceries and premade meals from the Bronx Works Food Pantry, a non-profit helping thousands of residents. Since her husband got laid off, she says it’s hard to know where their next meal is coming from.

“He lost his job, we have two kids and… we have to come to the pantry looking for help,” said Betty Gustino, in an interview with CBS2’s Natalie Duddridge.

CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC

Bronx Works used to offer food pantries twice a month in the Grand Concourse section, handing out meat, fruit and vegetables and other staples. But since the pandemic, it ramped up to every week. Now the need is so great, they added Monday’s pop up.

Pre-packaged boxes of food will help a family get through the week if they come on a Saturday, they can pick up enough items to last for two weeks. Organizers say they’ll need to provide more help if Congress doesn’t extend the $600 weekly federal stimulus checks that people can rely on to survive.

ARE YOU RUNNING OUT OF FOOD?

“It’s tough, I lost my job as well. It’s really tough, the bills are piling up, but then what can you do? It’s very hard. People say, oh yes, go back out and work, but how can you go back out and work if there’s not much jobs offered,” one woman said.

“This community is extremely hard hit. This is a community that are working in restaurants that are closed. This is a community that was working in hotels that are closed and all of those positions where they can’t work from home,” said Julie Spitzer, department director of Bronx Works.

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

In June, stats show at least one in four Bronx residents were unemployed. Despite record unemployment, Bronx Works says they are doubling down, but they need more help from the community in the form of volunteers and donations. The South Bronx has the highest rate of food insecurity in the country.

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