Coronavirus News: Rethink Food NYC launches new effort to save Chinatown

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- Community advocates are stepping in to makes sure that the residents of Chinatown are fed and its businesses supported so that it can continue to exist past the COVID-19 pandemic.

The social and economic effects of the outbreak have walloped Chinatown, and overall business has plummeted since February.

Now, months later, it's the residents who are suffering.

Winston Chiu, chief strategy officer at Rethink Food NYC, had been focusing on feeding efforts in the Bronx and Brooklyn when it occurred to him that Chinatown was being overlooked.

"They weren't getting any food, there were no grocery items for them to shop for, and restaurants were closed," Chiu said.

So he teamed with two churches to open food pick up points.

"The lines are very long," said Pastor Kevin Liu, of the Chinese Conservative Baptist Church. "The vast majority are Chinese elderly."

Rethink Food served 5,000 meals the first week, made up of culturally sensitive food made by Asian restaurants like Zen Yai.

"There was an overwhelming amount of people who showed up on those lines," Chiu said.

But many more seniors are homebound and can't access the food at their residences or at the few open markets.

"We don't even know how to reach them," Pastor Liu said. "We don't know where they are."

So Rethink Food NYC now goes door to door and places stickers on doors to help facilitate the distribution and overcome any language barriers.

"If you want to join the program, write the number of meals you need, put it on your door, and from there, we visit every day," Chiu said.

Chinatown is home to a vibrant and resilient community, but this pandemic may be too much to overcome and Chiu is concerned it n may not survive.

"They're a collection of small mom and pop shops," he said. "They don't have the wherewithal to come back if Chinatown is closed three to four months."

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