Volunteers team up to establish food pantry at Queens Museum

queens museum
Photo courtesy of Queens Museum.

COVID-19 cases may be decreasing in New York City but the effects of the health crisis — like food insecurity due to job loss — continue to resonate in communities like Corona, one of Queens’ hardest-hit neighborhoods by the virus.

To help alleviate the demand on existing food pantries and relief efforts in Corona, La Jornada, and Together We Can have established a food pantry at the Queens Museum, located in the New York City Building at the Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.

The food pantry opened for the first time on June 17 and is gearing up to serve 1,000 families a week, after serving 200 in its inaugural week.

Participation in the food pantry is by advance registration, according to a spokesperson at the Queens Museum. Registrants are assigned a one-hour pickup window between 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Wednesdays. The pantry will be giving away a week’s worth of fresh and nonperishable food items.

La Jornada and Together We Can Food Pantry at Queens Museum is sponsored in part by Oresky and Associates, Pllc, and the Elmhurst Community Partnership.

Corona is home to a large population of Black, brown, and immigrant communities who have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. With the city reporting a third of its food pantries closing in April, the Queens Museum is looking to bring accessible food to its neighbors.

La Jornada, a volunteer-led hunger-relief organization that has operated in Queens for 12 years, is located in Flushing at the Bland Houses. But Executive Director Pedro Rodriguez, who oversees a team of volunteers distributing food to more than 5,000 families, said many families travel from Corona to their location.

“Eighty percent of my requests in Flushing are coming from people in Corona impacted by COVID-19 who have lost their businesses and livelihoods. Most are young families with two kids who cannot go to work anymore,” Rodriguez said. “How many of us have enough savings to last for more than two weeks? They were living paycheck to paycheck and now there are no paychecks. We have gone from 20-30 new clients a week to thousands in the last three months. Corona is the most affected and there’s so much suffering. This is the situation we are in right now and it’s only getting worse as more people are losing their jobs. The need is overwhelming.”

Together We Can, a volunteer-led nonprofit that services the residents of Jackson Heights, Elmhurst, and Corona, works to empower community members by linking them to community resources and providing educational opportunities. The organization’s Co-founders Jessica Chacha and Shannon Getzel say they’ve witnessed the need for more assistance.

“We have seen the food distribution lines and the food insecurity being experienced by the community,” they stated. “We were compelled to organize something so families would not need to stand in long lines to be turned away without food. The team has a strong emphasis on dignity and respect, exemplifying and embodying the resiliency and strength of immigrant New Yorkers.”

Queens Museum’s Community Organizer Gianina Enriquez said their institution is glad to help.

“El mayor regalo de un ser humano a otro es, dar antes que recibir [the greatest gift from one human being to another is to give before receiving],” Enrique said. “Providing food aid to the community during these difficult times brings me great happiness. Corona is my family, and I could not be more proud that the Queens Museum is assisting those so acutely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. We are thrilled to be working with Together We Can and La Jornada to continue supporting those who need it most.”

Inquiries related to donations and volunteering can be emailed to Together We Can at togetherwecanrc@gmail.com.

This story first appeared on QNS.com