In tough times, humans aren’t the only ones who need food pantries.
Two food pantries in Richmond Hill are giving food to needy dog owners as part of a new program sponsored by the Food Bank of New York City.
The pilot program, announced on July 8 by the Food Bank, is meant to feed needy dogs and keep them with their families. The humane organization Bideawee donated 6,000 pounds of dog food to the organization, which then distributed it to a dozen food pantries across the city, including two in Queens: Elohim Christian Church at 87-47 111th St., Richmond Hill and the Community Bible Evangelical Free Church at 102-16 89th Ave., Richmond Hill. The program is in its initial stages and Food Bank officials hope to expand it to more locations and to include cat food later this summer.
At the Elohim Christian Church, Anthony Miranda, the executive director of the church’s food bank, received 20 bags of Iams brand dog food last Friday from the program. Each 30-pound bag is large enough to feed a big dog for at least two weeks and a small dog for about a month.
More than 1,000 families use Elohim Food Bank, Miranda estimated, up from about 68 families nine years ago. He said most of its patrons are the working poor and seniors on a fixed income who are feeling the economic pinch.
“There’s very little money left over and they’re feeling it. And some of them are sharing it with their pets,” Miranda said. “A lot of them have, unfortunately, been getting rid of some of their pets.”
This was not an option for Victor Reyes, whose shih tzu has been in his family longer than his daughters. On a recent afternoon, Reyes’ daughters, Briana, 9, and Bianca, 7, led the 10-year-old dog, named Precious, to the Elohim Food Bank. Reyes, a carpenter on workers’ compensation, said the dog food “helped tremendously,” predicting the program would save him about $40 a month.
“My neighbors had a pet, they asked me to see if I can get rid of it,” Reyes said. “For me that’s not an option anymore. No, we have to make do.”
Jimmy Dombo, who has a four-year-old West Highland white terrier named Zoie, picked up a bag of dog food from Elohim Friday.
“It’s a big relief on me, getting my dog food here — it frees up my money to buy food for the family,” Dombo said. “We’re not going to give her up for lack of food. She’ll eat what we eat if we can’t buy dog food. I know a lot of people are doing that, sacrificing their pets cause they can’t feed them. That’s not the case here.”
Miranda expects all 600 pounds of dog food to be gone by Saturday. On Friday morning, July 16, the Elohim Food Bank will distribute what is left on a first-come, first-serve basis. The food pantry has a sign-in policy and asks people to bring their pets with them to prevent abuse of the program.
Miranda said that although the Food Bank has yet to inform him of whether they will receive another shipment of dog food, he hopes to get one soon. “I’m hoping it’s going to be an ongoing program because that’s the only way it’s going to be effective,” he said.
David Grossnickle, a spokesman at Food Bank New York, said the organization will begin calling the 12 food pantries next week to receive an update on the success of the program so it can plan for the future.
“We’re really hoping to continue this,” Grossnickle said.