Oct. 30, 2020 By Allie Griffin
Queens food pantries are seeing food supplies dwindle at the same time that the number of families in need of food is increasing.
Pantry organizers are calling on elected officials to act on the urgency of the situation as the city heads into its ninth month of the pandemic in which many people are without work and don’t know when their next meal will come.
A coalition of local organizations held a rally in Woodside Wednesday to raise awareness of the impending shortages at food pantries.
The organizations, which included Sunnyside Community Services and Queens Together, said food supplies are depleting as funding for food programs decreases.
Yet simultaneously, lines for food pantries and soup kitchens are only getting longer as more people are out of work due to the pandemic.
“The need is increasing whereas the resources and funding are decreasing,” said Judy Zangwill, Executive Director of Sunnyside Community Services.
The unemployment rate in Queens was at nearly 14 percent last month, according to the State Labor Department. As a result, many families are struggling to make ends meet, the rally organizers said.
Food insecurity was an existing issue for 1.2 million New York City residents before March 2020, but the pandemic has exacerbated the issue.
Many local community-based groups pivoted to food relief efforts to fill the need, while a third of existing food pantries and kitchens saw their visitors double, according to survey by the Food Bank for New York City.
“Food insecurity really came to the fore once the pandemic hit,” Zangwill said. “I would say every population we served expressed this — that they were concerned about their next meal.”
Now — nine months later — food pantries are running low on food supplies.
Queens Together was forced to close its food pantry due in part to running out of food. It also no longer had use of its temporary venue–the Variety Boys and Girls Club in Astoria– since the organization reopened its teen center after COVID-19 restrictions were lifted.
“There’s nothing harder than getting a phone call from a parent basically realizing the food’s gone, we’re shut down for now,” said Jonathan Forgash, a former chef and co-founder of Queens Together.
“Hearing them realize that we have nothing for them and they don’t know where to turn, hearing another dad talk about that with his kids is really overwhelming and upsetting just as another human being — let alone as a father and a chef.”
Queens Together has since pivoted to connecting restaurants and others with extra food to other pantries and soup kitchens.
Forgash and fellow organizers are calling on elected officials to provide more food, more funding and more resources for Queens residents.
“What I don’t understand is where are the leaders?” Forgash said. “The system is overwhelmed. The smaller guys are shutting down for lack of support. Why isn’t there a national emergency?”
Following the rally, the organizations handed out food at the NYCHA Woodside Houses where residents waited in a long line despite the rainy weather.