BY ANGÉLICA ACEVEDO
Hungry Monk, a Ridgewood-based homeless outreach and community response vehicle, launched an emergency fundraiser in order to maintain their vital food services in Queens.
“We’re looking to raise funds so that we can continue the work we’ve begun. We’ve dedicated ourselves to continue doing this work as long as we could,” Father Mike Lopez, executive director of Hungry Monk, said in their fundraising video.
Hungry Monk has served homeless individuals and vulnerable Queens families since 2017. But on March 10, they began their emergency mode, converting their space at Covenant Lutheran Church, located at 68-59 60th Ln. in Ridgewood, into a full scale food pantry to begin providing daily meals for the community amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The entirely volunteer-led team is out on the streets distributing food around Queens seven days a week, 12 hours a day. To date, they’ve provided more than 250,000 pounds of food. By the end of March, they fed more than 10,000 families with children, seniors, people experiencing homelessness.
But the $60,000 Hungry Monk had in their budget for the year — allocated by elected officials — was gone in less than a month.
“Our food pantry resources are almost all dried up,” Hungry Monk wrote in a press release. “If they dry up, there are no restaurants that we can fall back on to ask for leftovers. The 10,000 families we’ve served so far through the food pantry will not get supplies, and people will go hungry immediately. There is no buffer zone.”
They are currently distributing fresh and dry goods at Covenant Lutheran Church on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays at 10 a.m. They also operate their regular Saturday food outreach at Ridgewood Veterans Triangle at Myrtle and Cypress at 11 a.m.
Hungry Monk has partnered with several community organizations, including Woodbine, The Rock Church in Elmhurst, Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Astoria, NYCHA’s Bedford Stuyvesant Family Health Center in Brooklyn, Woodside Houses, NYCHA’s Cooper Park Houses in Brooklyn and NYCHA’s Throggs Neck Houses in the Bronx.
They’re also offering bed programs for individuals experiencing homelessness at the Ridgewood Abbey, Elmhurst Abbey and St. James Abbey.
Hungry Monk is also providing home deliveries to discharged patients from Wyckoff Heights Medical Center in Brooklyn, as well as those currently experiencing coronavirus symptoms, the immunocompromised, and the elderly who live in the greater community of Ridgewood, Glendale, Maspeth, Middle Village and Bushwick.
Recently, Hungry Monk partnered with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to provide pantry bags to her constituency in District 14, including Corona, Elmhurst, Woodside and the Bronx. Ocasio-Cortez said that these volunteers are on the frontlines like others, and need the economic support to not only continue to feed those who need it, but also to secure person protective equipment for themselves.
“These volunteers that are stepping up and putting themselves at risk. They’re trying to do that to prevent the alternative, which would be hundreds of people waiting in a crowded line in front of a food pantry,” Ocasio-Cortez said during a virtual town hall. “Because at the end of the day, our community needs to eat. A lot of our families that we’ve been hearing from [say] they’re reducing the amount of meals they’re taking per day because they’re scared and don’t have the resources now that people have been out of work for several weeks.”
Mayor Bill de Blasio and Speaker Corey Johnson previously pledged $25 million, and the city later rolled out a $170 million plan to combat the ever-growing hunger crisis.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced April 27 that the state will allocate $25 million in emergency funding for food banks, and will launch a Nourish New York initiative, as food banks across the state see a surge in demand (NYC’s food banks have seen a 100 percent surge alone).
But Hungry Monk said they haven’t received any additional money from the Mayor or city. Therefore, their goal is to raise $100,000 to restock their pantry, so they’ll be able to operate for at least another month.
“We need to maintain our pantry for the community, but our resources have been depleted,” Hungry Monk wrote in a press release. “The initial wave of restaurant donations has dried up, but we need to be able to keep rescuing and distributing food for those in need. In addition to bulk purchases of fresh produce and dry goods, we have been renting supplemental vehicles for delivery, paying for gas, insurance, space rental and other operating expenses.”
This story first appeared on qns.com.