Former COVID-19 city sanitation commissioner and “food czar” Kathryn Garcia touted the city’s pandemic food delivery program during the Democratic Mayor’s latest debate. last week.
But the hope at the town hall did not mention the many failures of the free program.
“When I was in charge of emergency feeding, there was no demand for [citizenship] Documentation. All you had to do was say you were hit with COVID and you couldn’t get out, and we delivered food to you, ”she said during Wednesday night’s debate.
As the city braced for the pandemic, Mayor de Blasio in March 2020 named Garcia a “food czar,” to ensure a constant supply of food deliveries to needy New Yorkers.
But the program had problems, including delivery errors that lasted for months, outright emptying of food boxes, and delivery of spoiled food.
A Taxi & Limousine Commission licensed driver who ran food errands during the pandemic said the boxes he was tasked with delivering contained “no background food”.
“It was basically high fructose corn syrup snacks,” he told The Post, describing what he found in a leftover box he once opened. “I offered it to a homeless woman, who turned it down.”
The driver also said the morning pickups were “very disorganized”. Hours of unpaid wait sometimes did not lead to work and the city did not always have enough masks for drivers, he said.
To get supplies distributed more quickly during the pandemic, city agencies conducted more relaxed background checks of suppliers and awarded contracts to companies they likely wouldn’t normally have considered, The Wall Street Journal reported.
The city’s sanitation department, under Garcia, awarded a $ 14 million emergency contract without submission to a construction company of a condemned tax evasion as part of the food delivery program it supervised as tsar, according to an audit released earlier this month by city comptroller Scott Stringer, another mayoral candidate. The contract was to deliver food during the pandemic.
The contract was later terminated because the seller – Cariati Developers Inc. of Wallingford, Connecticut – repeatedly delivered its boxes of food late or so crushed they were “unusable.”
Garcia campaign spokeswoman Annika Reno said in a statement: “In a state of emergency as a pandemic of unprecedented magnitude swept through the city, Kathryn has put in place a program to deliver a million meals a day for New Yorkers in need. “
“Whenever the few isolated food or delivery incidents happened, Kathryn’s team, who had come from several agencies around the city, would immediately work to correct the problem and fire any suppliers who did not comply. Standard. If there was a problem, Kathryn would fix it because that’s what leaders do, ”she said.
DSNY spokesman Joshua Goodman said in a statement the agency was “extremely proud” of the program. “Complaints about spoiled food were rare (note about a 95% satisfaction rate), and when these complaints were received, DSNY took them seriously and acted immediately,” he said.