NEW YORK — Rev. Al Sharpton helped serve up holiday cheer on Christmas Day.

"Christmas is not about what you get; it's about what you give," Sharpton said. He was joined by Mayor-elect Eric Adams and Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin, who volunteered to feed the hungry in Harlem on Saturday.

What You Need To Know

  • Hundreds of Harlem residents got free Christmas meals at NAN headquarters

  • 1.5 million New York City residents experience hunger and food insecurity

  • A COVID-19 testing site was set up outside NAN on Christmas Day

  • Harlem has recorded more than 700 new COVID-19 cases in the last week, has a vaccination rate of 69%

"This is more than a meal," Adams said. "This is saying to other people: we notice you, you matter and we're here to be Christ-like."

It was an important reminder that many New Yorkers don’t know where their next meal will come from — a problem only exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. According to City Harvest, 1.5 million New York City residents experience food insecurity.

Among them is Juanita Gamble, who comes National Action Network every year. "Christmas is like joy," Gamble said. "You deserve happiness."

Feeding the hungry holds special significance this year as the city sees a surge in omicron cases. That’s why this event doubled as the kickoff to NAN’s COVID-19 Booster Awareness Campaign.

"When we're seeing, the rise of COVID-19, community leaders must work with our mayor-elect, our lieutenant governor, our governor and others to solve the problem," Sharpton said. "Conspiracy theories — all that out the window. We must solve the problem."

NAN is doing just that by offering vaccine education and free testing outside its headquarters.

"I think when it's visible, when people see you out here, as opposed to going to the hospital, to the doctor's office, or the emergency [room], this is even better," said Michelle Lee, a registered medical assistant, was on-hand to get people tested for COVID-19.

"It's very important to come get checked because you don't wanna infect your loved ones or your kids," said Victoria Davis, who was among hundreds of Harlem residents who got tested at NAN on Christmas Day.

Adams says accessibility is key to ending COVID-19 so we can all celebrate together next year,

"We need to be a one-stop shop," the mayor-elect said. "You come here, you get your meal, you get your mask, you get your COVID test, you get your vaccination."


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