One in five New Yorkers relies on soup kitchens and food pantries to eat, including one in five children. On Tuesday, the Jets partnered with the Food Bank of NYC to feed a Thanksgiving meal to over 400 people in West Harlem's kitchen. Today is Thanksgiving, but it's important to note this isn't just a holiday issue but an every day one. It's an alarming statistic that affects so many people every day of their lives.
"Hunger doesn't take a break," said Brady Koch, chief programs officer for the Food Bank of NYC. "We need volunteers like the Jets throughout the rest of the year. We need volunteers to make all of this happen."
The Jets' LB Lorenzo Mauldin and G Craig Watts were two of those volunteers in the kitchen unloading, carving and serving hot turkey to the less fortunate on a cold, November day in Harlem.
"Any team has got to be a part of the community, just as the community is a part of the team," Watts said. "We are the New York Jets. We are synonymous with the New York area, so it's vital to show the community that we want to support them as much as they support us."
A sentiment echoed by Jets President Neil Glat.
"We don't want anyone to go a day being hungry." Glat said. "This is an annual thing for us but we want to make sure people, particularly in New York City, have food and a meal year-round."
The Jets Served Dinner to 400+ at Food Bank For New York Cityâs Community Kitchen & Food Pantry of West Harlem
New Yorkers miss 242 million meals every year due to a lack of sufficient resources. Food insecurity especially hits close to home for linebacker Lorenzo Mauldin, who grew up bouncing from foster home to foster home.
"I've been in their shoes so I understand what they're going through," Mauldin said. "I had to stand in these lines. I had to make sure my younger siblings had a chance to eat something. I understand the troubles that they go through every day. It's important to be able to come out here and let them know that we care about them."
Mauldin, Watts and Glat helped unload 100 plus turkeys at the city's largest food distribution point.
"It's fantastic because it brings visibility," Koch said. "A lot of people talk about food and hunger as an invisible problem, but when the Jets are here it just gets the word out there. People know that there's an issue, but they also need to know that there's a solution to the issue. Food is the best way to fix food insecurity."
The Jets and Food Bank of NYC partnered up to reduce the anxiety for hundreds of people about where their Thanksgiving meal would come from.
"It's a really good thing to help them eat on Thanksgiving. I can attest to it because I was a part of this as a child," Mauldin said. "I just want to make sure that everybody eats like I did."
And at least for the night, they did.