Grocery shopping is becoming a challenge as officials urge millions of New Yorkers to stay indoors during the coronavirus pandemic. But a Brooklyn-based nonprofit, People In Need (PIN), has become a helping hand for those who aren’t able to leave their homes.

Nowshin Ali started PIN to help immigrant families settle in America. The organization helps teach immigrants day-to-day tasks like using the subway, as well as things that require a municipal push, like obtaining health insurance. With coronavirus spreading through New York, PIN has shifted its focus to delivering hot food and groceries to the families affected by the pandemic.  

Ali cooks out of her restaurant, Jalsa Gravy & Grill, and delivers it to people in the Brooklyn, Queens and Long Island areas while PIN staff and volunteers deliver food and groceries to people who can’t leave their homes.

“Today, we delivered to a single mom who has two high-risk children. She can’t come out of the house at all,” said Ali.

Nowshin Ali (left), Misha Khan (middle), and Fawzia Syed (right) in Ali’s restaurant, Jalsa Gravy & Grill. [photo credit: Misha Khan]
PIN’s delivery system is set up in a way that prioritizes those who are ill, old or have a condition that restricts them from going out.

“There are people in isolation so my goal was to serve the people and prioritize old people,” said Ali. “There are some people with special needs who can’t cook so I cook out of my restaurant and deliver it to them.”

PIN’s services aren’t limited to the elderly and people with special needs.They offer aid to anyone reaching out to them through their social media, all free of charge.

“Even the people who are offering to pay, we’re letting them know that we understand it’s a difficult time, and if it’s easier for you to keep that money, just keep it,” said Misha Khan, a PIN staff member and an ELA teacher at Plainview Old Bethpage Middle School.

The U.S. has 137,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus — New York has 59,513 of those cases alone. CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy found that 29% of NYC households reported “at least one person lost their job.” And 34% of NYC households who lost their jobs earned under $50,000.  

Khan uses a group chat on WhatsApp to connect over 40 volunteers who cover deliveries over Long Island and Queens. 

“As I’m finding out information from people who are reaching out, I post it in the group chat,” said Khan, “and the volunteer who lives closest to the family in need, they do the groceries, deliver it and we reimburse them from the donations we have.”

Misha Khan, a PIN staff member, on a grocery delivery. [photo credit: Misha Khan]
PIN has raised approximately $10,000 through GoFundMe and Venmo as their donations continue to climb. They had three delivery volunteers three weeks ago, but the volunteer count has since swelled to over 40. 

To help with groceries, Pexco Inc. (distributor of South Asian groceries) warehouse has been selling items at discounted prices to PIN staff to support their cause. And the owner of popular Pakistani restaurant BBQ Nite, Ativan Syed, reached out to Khan to arrange deliveries from his restaurant.  

Ali was inspired to start PIN because of her former experiences as an immigrant in America.

“All the centre’s (organizations) around us are mostly male population and some women don’t feel comfortable approaching a man and telling them their problems,” said Ali. 

Outside the pandemic, PIN’s main focus is helping immigrant families cope with culture shock, holding info sessions for women and an “after school homework help program.”

Misha Khan, a PIN staff member, on a grocery delivery. [photo credit: Misha Khan]

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