The UFT raised more than $310,000, beating its goal of $250,000, in a four-hour telethon on Feb. 13 to raise funds to feed New York families struggling with food insecurity as a result of the pandemic.
The money, raised through corporate donations and donations from UFT members, is being distributed this spring among local food pantries, churches and community organizations.
Opening the We Feed NYC telethon, UFT President Michael Mulgrew emphasized the importance of New Yorkers helping each other. “We are going to give a helping hand to our friends and neighbors in need,” he said, calling on viewers to “to dig deep to help each other.”
The number of children who lack consistent access to enough food for an active, healthy life has skyrocketed over the past two years, according to statistics compiled by the nonprofit No Kid Hungry. Before the pandemic, about 1 in 5 children in New York City was considered food insecure. Among the approximately 1.7 million children in the five boroughs, nearly 1 in 3 do not have access to adequate food, the group reported.
“In my more than 25 years as a member of the UFT, this was one of my most rewarding experiences,” said event organizer Anthony Harmon, an assistant to the president and the union’s former director of parent and community outreach. “With the rise in unemployment and underemployment this pandemic has caused, it was refreshing to know that New Yorkers care and that our union was able to lead the way to help struggling families.”
The telethon showcased the wide-ranging talents of students and UFT members throughout the city. It also included professional performances as well as a segment on keeping fit at home and cooking lessons from a professional chef on how to cook nutritious, tasty meals at low cost.
The telethon followed the union’s donation of 20,000 restaurant-prepared meals in December to communities in need. The UFT forged partnerships with city restaurants to provide 1,000 meals each week for four weeks in each borough to feed hungry New York families.
Mulgrew was spurred to act when he saw the lines outside food pantries growing longer each week as he traveled to city schools during the pandemic.