Asian Americans have the largest wealth gap. Here is how they are helping each other this year.| Latest News Headlines

Asian Americans have the largest wealth gap. Here is how they are helping each other this year.

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In winter, the road in front of Rawnak Jahan’s house in Queens, New York is often covered with ice and snow. For this 63-year-old Bangladeshi immigrant, leaving home and walking to the grocery store can seem daunting in itself. But with a recent back surgery preventing her from walking, accessing food is even more difficult.

“I can’t cook because I can’t stand for long,” she told NBC Asian America. “After 10, 15 minutes, I have to sit down.”

Jahan, who arrived in the United States with her two children in 2015, relies on community organization India Home to bring meals to her doorstep. It’s not just sandwiches and canned goods, but food that reminds her of what she might be doing around the house.

Experts say the holidays can pose challenges for many in Jahan’s position, who need them but are unsure of where to turn for help. And a general lack of understanding of the wealth disparity that exists under the umbrella of “Asian Americans” could keep resources out of reach.

Asians in the United States have the largest wealth gap of any ethnic group, according to a 2018 report from the Pew Research Center. Those at the top 10% of the income distribution earn almost 11 times more than those at the bottom, a disparity that quickly formed from 1970 to 2016.

The average Asian household income in 2019 was around $ 85,000. But without separating it, this figure paints an incomplete picture. Indian families in the United States, the richest under the umbrella, earn an average of $ 119,000 per year. Burmese families are the other end of the spectrum, with just $ 44,000 a year. Bangladeshis like Jahan, concentrated in New York, have a median family income of $ 59,500.

But the statistic of $ 85,000 is what generates the most interest, experts say, and it makes government programs and charities less likely to identify Asian communities to serve.

A lack of toys for low-income Asian children

In Los Angeles, a group of Asian Americans in business and law organized a holiday toy drive for this reason.

“These larger toy drives didn’t seem to provide toys to AAPI communities,” said Diane Tan, one of the founders of APA Holiday Toy Drive. “That’s when we thought we should at least try to provide toys for children from low income families in our own communities. “

The first took place in 2000, with toys distributed to families through community organizations in their neighborhood. Demand has only grown since.

“Last year the need was the greatest we’ve ever had,” she said. With 2020 decimating Asian-owned businesses with a combination of racism and Covid, Tan says the number of families signing up for toy donations has increased. Corporate and personal donations have helped meet this need, but it is a difficult request for a local organization.

“A lot of families, their income level has gone down and they don’t necessarily have the means to buy toys,” she said.

Access to food and isolation during the winter months

The winter months in particular exacerbate food insecurity problems for low-income Asians, according to community activists. There are several obvious barriers to entry, with harsh weather conditions being one of them.

“They’re trying to stay home and ration their food,” said Shubhra Datta, case manager at India Home, which serves South Asian seniors in New York City.

Of India Home’s 1,500 members, 20 percent are continually food insecure. Language barriers and a lack of technology are two barriers throughout the year that prevent older people from applying for programs like SNAP or food stamps.

“And then there are people who have all of the above answers, but they can’t go out, they can’t find the right kind of food,” he said. “Most of them are from South Asia, they want South Asian food, but it’s hard for them to find it. “

For seniors with mobility challenges, leaving home to go to food banks may be impossible, and when they do, they may end up with possessions they don’t recognize. India Home tries to fill this gap by offering several free meals per week, consisting of rice or chapatis, halal meats, dal and a vegetarian dish provided by local restaurants.

“This is where you really help them feel seen, help them feel treated with respect, with empathy,” said Deepti Sharma, who has worked in community food access for years.

Considering culture when providing meals is just the human thing to do, she said.

“The most important thing I wanted to accomplish was to make sure people didn’t feel like they were getting a handout,” Sharma said. “But when you give them a bag of produce, it’s like taking home something that they can provide for their families. Now they can go home and cook a meal.

India Home also takes into account health issues common to older people, using brown rice instead of white rice so meals are more nutrient dense. Beyond feeding them, the right food also contributes to their mental health.

“If you’re well fed you tend to forget a lot of other things,” Datta said.

Jahan misses Bangladesh; her husband still lives there and only visits the United States a few times a year. But she says she has found her community here now. Before the pandemic ended most in-person activities, she was writing poems and reciting them to other elderly people at India Home. Even confined to her home, she still speaks regularly on the phone with these friends.

“They made me feel welcome,” Jahan said.

Latest News Headlines World news Asian Americans have the largest wealth gap. Here is how they are helping each other this year.

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