Supermarket in NYC
Grocery store in NYC. Evans

NEW YORK CITY — New York City will launch a pilot program that will provide asylum seekers with prepaid debit cards for groceries.

The one-time issued cards will be provided to 500 families with children and will be used exclusively at bodegas, supermarkets and grocery and convenience stores.

Migrants will only be able to purchase goods like food, diapers and hygiene products. Recipients must sign an affidavit swearing to use the funds only for food and baby supplies or risk being removed from the program. Cards will be loaded with different amounts depending on the size of a family and whether they have income — a family of four could receive $1,000 monthly or $35 per day. Cards will be refilled every 28 days.

"Not only will this provide families with the ability to purchase fresh food for their culturally relevant diets and the baby supplies of their choosing, but the pilot program is expected to save New York City more than $600,000 per month, or more than $7.2 million annually," Mayor Adams spokesperson, Kayla Mamelak said.

Right now, the city has contracts with food services that help provide food boxes to shelters.

In a statement, City Hall called the program, "the more cost-effective technology pilot program to distribute pre-paid immediate response cards to asylum seekers to purchase food and baby supplies in lieu of the city's current system of providing non-perishable food boxes to migrant families staying in hotels."

The program will also allow migrants to purchase culturally-appropriate food — which has been a challenge for migrants.

In July 2023, a group of migrants walked out of a shelter after spoiled food sickened some of their children.

Multiple people told The City, that they'd been sickened by food provided at shelters. Angela, a mother of two who asked that her last name be withheld, told The City the food was "inhumane."

"You wouldn't even give that type of food to dogs," she said. "We're thankful we have a place to sleep with our children. We're just asking that they change the food for the children."

As Documented reported, many migrants lived in shelters where they are not allowed to cook their own meals. The pilot program would give migrants a little more freedom into what they decide to eat.

New York City will be partnering with Mobility Capital Finance.

"MoCaFi looks forward to partnering with New York City to disburse funds for asylum seekers to purchase fresh, hot food," said Wole Coaxum, CEO of Mobility Capital Finance. "MoCaFi's goal is to expand access to financial resources for individuals excluded from banking, such as asylum seekers, while helping the local economy."

The program aims to expand to the total population of migrants in the city.

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