Food providers feel the strain of COVID 1

Mobile food pantries like one by Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens in Cambria Heights last week are in growing demand in the borough.

Last Friday more than 1,200 people attended a pop-up food pantry sponsored by Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens at Sacred Heart of Jesus Roman Catholic Church in Cambria Heights.

All received three bags of groceries, including fresh chicken, tuna, pasta and produce including apples, potatoes, carrots and celery, plus things like dried beans, tomato sauce, apple sauce and fruit cups.

The organization estimates it has provided more than 300,000 meals for the needy since the last week of March.

And in a report issued last week, the Food Bank for New York City said the need for such outreach is only growing as the city continues to deal with the fallout of the COVID-19 crisis.

“As we continue to monitor the detrimental impact of COVID-19 on our city — and particularly on our low-income communities — the preliminary data are alarming,” the agency said in the introduction to its 30-page report. “More than 500,000 New Yorkers are facing unemployment, and are forced to make impossible choices between rent, utilities, medications, and food – while others face medical risks that require them to stay home and prevent them from acquiring groceries.”

The report said the pandemic only added exponentially to the demands on an emergency food network that already had been operating under strain.

“[N]early half (46 percent) of food pantries and soup kitchens reported an increase in visitors within three weeks of the COVID-19 outbreak,” the reports states.

In Queens, 38 percent of the emergency food providers — 65 out of an original total of 170 — such as pantries and soup kitchens had closed by mid-April, even as demand increased. The number citywide was also at 38 percent.

“[In Queens] of the 38 percent of closed EFPs, more than half (54 percent) are in the top largest meal gap communities,” the report states on page 15.

Three of Food Bank for New York City’s top 10 communities of focus are in Queens.

They include Community District 11, covering Bayside, Douglaston and Little Neck, where the only emergency food provider has closed; District 5 with Ridgewood, Glendale and Middle Village, which has lost four of its six providers; and District 14 in the Rockaways, which has lost eight of 14.

Citywide, the group said that since the start of the COVID shutdown, first-time visitors to emergency food providers are up 91 percent; families with children by 79 percent; laid-off or furloughed workers by 71 percent; senior citizens by 56 percent; working individuals by 48 percent; and pregnant women or breastfeeding mothers by 22 percent.

Food Bank for New York City this past May 5 did announce the Francine A. LeFrak Foundation has donated 1 million meals for people in Queens. The donation will benefit food pantries and soup kitchens in Corona, Elmhurst, Forest Hills, Rego Park and Woodside.

“During this critical moment, we wanted to find a way to help our fellow New Yorkers and could find no better cause than providing food and resources to people in need,” LeFrak said in a statement from the agency. “We are proud to partner with Food Bank to ensure families in Queens, the epicenter of the epidemic, do not go hungry.”

UPDATE

This story was edited to state the date of the Francine A. LeFrak Foundation donation.

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