Following reports of a packed food pantry line stretching a quarter of a mile through Flushing streets just five days earlier, the City Council announced Aug. 27 that the neighborhood would get $65,880 in funding to support the food insecure.
“Thousands of New Yorkers are in need of emergency food assistance due to the pandemic and this funding will help make sure those who are struggling through tough times will continue to have access to food,” said Councilmember Peter Koo (D-Flushing) in a statement. “Food pantries in Flushing have lines around the block every day, and we need to do everything in our power to ensure the safe operation of these important public service centers.”
Koo announced that five food pantries in his district would benefit from the funding: La Jornada, Tzu Chi Foundation, South Asian Council for Social Services, Flushing Jewish Community Council and St. Michael’s Church, the latter of which would spend its share in three weeks.
“We normally don’t have a line waiting outside. Now we have it going around the church and up the block, and the families that are coming are families that are not necessarily registered in our pantry ... We had to change our whole enrollment process because everyone is unemployed,” said Nilda Tirado, the church’s food pantry coordinator. The church received $18,000 from the City Council, but Tirado said it spends between $5,000 and $6,000 each week on food deliveries.
The 41st Avenue and Union Street pantry served approximately 8,900 families between April and August, a 650 percent increase from 2019. It had received the same total funding from the Council last year, which ran out in three months.
“Unfortunately, we can only give them a certain amount of food because our funding is limited ... food is expensive,” said Tirado. “We receive donations, but the funding supports the bulk of the pantry.”
The new monies come as part of the City Council’s Fiscal Year 2021 Budget Transparency Resolution #1, which was passed Thursday by the Committee on Finance. As part of the Food Pantries Initiative, organizations across the five boroughs were awarded $7.7 million for supplies for operational support.
More than half the funding — over $4.8 million — was awarded to pantries in Queens, though 80 percent of that was designated to the city’s Department of Youth and Community Development, listed as a borough organization.
“We’re very appreciative of Mr. Koo, and thank God we are supported by Catholic Charities,” said Tirado. “We’re really very appreciative — it’s $18,000, every bit helps. That funding will go a long way.”