New York City volunteers and staff help to distribute turkey, groceries and produce. (Photo: lev radin / Shutterstock.com)
Despite pandemic-induced challenges to traditional fundraising efforts, Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS this week provided a record $2,452,500 in grants to 131 food service and meal delivery programs in 37 states, Puerto Rico and Washington, DC.
The 2021 total tops last year’s pre-pandemic support of $2.3 million, a notable 6% increase over what was then a record grant round. These grants are even more critical now as the federal food stamps program addresses a nearly 23 percent increase in need in the past year, and 24 million Americans currently say they often or sometimes do not have enough to eat.
The food grants, part of Broadway Cares’ National Grants Program, ensure that those affected by HIV/AIDS, COVID-19 and other life-threatening illnesses can access healthy meals through food pantries, meal deliveries, and other food programs.
“A decent meal can be the first line of defense, the road back to health and recovery,” Broadway Cares Executive Director Tom Viola said. “Access to that meal can be difficult in the best of circumstances. During a pandemic, when we’re told to not even think about venturing outside, access to the safety net of support hits the most vulnerable the hardest. These grants underscore our community’s commitment to shining a bright spotlight on those in need, even on our country’s darkest days.”
Among the 131 organizations receiving grants are 21 from New York City, including programs that reach all five boroughs. Eight of those 21 organizations provide services to friends, neighbors and colleagues in the heart of New York’s Theater District, now helping many who before this year might never have needed this assistance.
The record grants were made possible by the ongoing generosity of donors and supporters of Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, the philanthropic heart of Broadway. Craig Newmark Philanthropies offered a $250,000 matching donation specifically to help propel these food grants as part of a year-end fundraising initiative.
Thanks to thousands of generous souls responding to the matching donation, the 2021 food grants defied current economic challenges and were a $135,500 increase over the 2020 grants. Over the last five years, Broadway Cares’ support for meal delivery services, congregate meal programs and food pantries have increased 28%.
These food service grants will reach hundreds of thousands of people across the country facing serious challenges. All struggle with diminished community resources and economic uncertainty compounded exponentially by the pandemic and the economic shutdown.
The $2.45 million awarded in this Food Service and Meal Delivery grant round is in addition to $5.7 million that has been awarded to The Actors Fund since October 1, 2020, the beginning of Broadway Cares’ fiscal year. Additional grants through the National Grants Program and to The Actors Fund will be made this spring.