More than 500 packages of free Passover food were given this past Sunday at the Queens Jewish Community Council offices.
Each person received five pounds of apples, as well as onions, carrots, cooking oil, grape juice, boxes of matzah and matzah ball mix.
Only prior clients with tickets mailed to their homes were eligible “so we know who needs it the most,” said Warren Hecht, president of the board at the QJCC. Packages for the general public were available the rest of the week.
Another 1,000 free kosher for Passover packages will be given out today, April 10, at the offices of the QJCC, which is located at the edge of Forest Hills next to Kew Gardens. The giveaway will be sponsored by Stop-n-Shop supermarket.
A recent UJA-Federation report shows that more Jews in Central Queens live near poverty than in any other area in New York City. Central Queens also has the second highest concentration of seniors in the city.
“There is a great need,” said Cynthia Zalisky, executive director of the QJCC. She pointed to the high amount of seniors 85 and older living in Central Queens, and noted that 90 is the average age of the people getting the Council’s four frozen weekly kosher meals.
Funding for the more than 140 seniors receiving the weekly frozen kosher meals was cut by the city’s Meals on Wheels program. The city “is gearing up towards Baby Boomers but the advanced elderly are the ones who need the help. They are much more likely not to go outside at all,” said Zalisky.
There were many Russian-speaking elderly on line this past Sunday but also a non-Jewish woman in her early 60s from Jackson Heights who has been out of work for five years. She said she has been experiencing ageism, as employers want to hire younger, more tech-savvy employees.
Another non-Jewish woman, one who is in her 50s and from Richmond Hill, arrived two hours early to get in line. She said she is on a fixed income for the first time in her life and is finding rent and food bills too high.
Rep. Grace Meng (D-Flushing), City Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills), state Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Flushing), and Assembly members Ed Braunstein (D-Bayside), Nily Rozic (D-Fresh Meadows), and Ron Kim (D-Flushing) were on hand to assist the 20 to 30 volunteers.
The need is strong, according to those who operate other charitable efforts in the area.
The Food Pantry at the Central Queens Y gives out 300 monthly packages, said Lali Janash, case manager for the Y.
Masbia, the free kosher restaurant in Rego Park, provides 180 meals a day at no charge, and then each Thursday gives bags of food to about 400 households.
“It is a major concern of the board and of the city,” Frank Galluscio, district manager for Community Board 6, which covers Forest Hills and Rego Park, said of the situation. Referring to Mayor de Blasio’s team, he added, “I really believe the new administration will take a look at this.”
This article initially underreported how many free meals the Masbia organization provides. We regret the error.