You are reading

Queens Comes Together to Form Food Pantry in Astoria

Veggie Days Food Pantry (Photo: Jaime-Faye Bean)

July 6, 2020 By Asha MacKay

A food pantry that is operating out of Astoria that represents the coming together of local restaurants, non-profit organizations and generous residents is swamped with those in need every Thursday when it operates.

Veggie Days Food Pantry, which was started by the newly formed non-profit Queens Together, has been operating a pantry out of the Variety Boys and Girls Club at 30-55 21st in Astoria each Thursday since COVID-19 struck.

The line stretches around the block on Thursdays, when locals in need can get hot meals, fresh produce and bagged dry goods. The emphasis is on fresh produce and that is where Veggie Days gets its name.

Jonathan Forgash, a former chef, and Jaime-Faye Bean, director at Sunnyside Shines, founded Queens Together, now a 501(c)3, at the beginning of the pandemic by bringing together their respective humanitarian and foodie connections to serve communities in need.

The pair started the group by partnering with local restaurants to feed frontline healthcare workers as well as other emergency responders. The concept helped provide much-needed revenue for restaurants while aiding frontline workers. They have expanded their scope since.

The visitors to the food pantry speak mostly Spanish, Arabic and English–with a distinctly Queens accent. They wait in a long line before being served.

“They have hot food, packages, it’s great,” says Sara Puerto, a hair stylist who is unsure when she’ll be back at the salon.

Hanan Mazam, who has four children and an extended family at home, is grateful for the stability that a weekly pantry provides.

Queens College student Alexis Toxbui speaks for his family when he says, “we just need a little bit of extra help sometimes.”

Prepared meals come from nearby restaurants as well as Greentop Farms, a Long Island City-based food and grocery delivery company.

Last week’s giveaway items included tampons from Femstrate, an effort by two high schoolers at the Young Women’s Leadership Academy in Astoria to make period products available in all NYC public schools.

In addition to providing groceries and hot meals onsite, volunteers deliver bags of fresh produce to homebound neighbors. Members of mutual aid organizations and individuals pick up food to distribute across Queens.

The Queens Economic Development Corporation (QEDC) is the fiscal sponsor for Queens Together. Donations made through the QEDC website are fully tax-deductible.

With donations from over 600 donors and tireless volunteers, Queens Together has distributed over 25,000 prepared meals and 100,000 pounds of fresh produce throughout the pandemic.

Many of the people volunteering to package and deliver meals at Veggie Days are themselves in need of a little assistance. “When you empower communities, communities take care of their own,” Forgash said.

Luis Gaguancela, founder of the Facebook mutual aid group “Manos Que Dan Reciben,” knows this firsthand. He was out of work and money at the start of the pandemic and was helped by Queens Together when he was connected with the group through co-founder Jaime-Faye Bean.

Bean helped him out with money and food, which he shared with others in need. Gaguancela now picks up meals at Veggie Days on Thursdays to distribute to a growing list of people in need across the borough. The rest of the week his van is making stops at other food pantries in Queens.

At its core, says Forgash, “the pantry is not really the story. People want to help others, that’s the story.”

Veggie Days represents the generosity of nonprofits, restaurants and individuals looking to do good across Queens.

“We make each other stronger,” Forgash says, adding that the group’s founding principle is that “helping others comes back around.”

Veggie Days Food Pantry (Photo: Jaime-Faye Bean)

 

email the author: [email protected]
No comments yet

Leave a Comment
Reply to this Comment

All comments are subject to moderation before being posted.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Recent News

Long Island City teen sentenced in fatal shooting of ‘beloved’ school teacher at Queensbridge Houses in 2020: DA

A Long Island City man on Friday, Jan. 28, was sentenced to 19 years in prison for the 2020 fatal shooting of a public school social studies teacher who was out walking his dog when he was caught in the crossfire during a confrontation between gang rivals in broad daylight, just blocks from his home, according to Queens District Attorney’s office.

Ike Ford, 19, of 12th Street, in Long Island City, pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the first degree before Queens Supreme Court Justice Kenneth Holder. The teacher, George Rosa, 53, was shot in his abdomen by a stray bullet fired by Ford, who was just 17 years old at the time of the shooting but was sentenced as an adult given the severity of the crime, according to Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz.

LaGuardia Community College receives federal funding to expand vocational training for the unemployed

LaGuardia Community College recently received more than $400,000 in federal funding to enhance and expand vocational training for underemployed New Yorkers in a city that is still working to recover from COVID-19 pandemic-induced job loss. The support was secured by U.S. Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez and former Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney.

LaGuardia Community College President Kenneth Adams explained that the school lost nearly a quarter of its students at the height of the pandemic due to the economic effects of the lockdown on low-income Queens households.

BP launches new advisory panel for youth to become civically engaged in the future of Queens

In an effort to get more young people involved in civics, Queens Borough President Donovan Richards has created a new advisory panel known as the Youth and Young Adult Council to introduce the “youngest and fiercest” community advocates to both community service and organization.

Members of the advisory body will advocate concerns through means of community engagement by participating in one of two cohorts. The first will be made up of high school representatives between the ages of 13 and 17, while the second cohort will be comprised of young adults between the ages of 18 and 25.

These Queens eateries are participating in the upcoming NYC Restaurant Week

NYC Restaurant Week is underway, so nix that skillet and bring family and friends to your favorite neighborhood spot, or get inspired and break bread somewhere new and different. During this special citywide culinary event, food-lovers will enjoy curated menus and prix-fixe prices that are easy on the wallet.

Bookings began on Jan. 17 and are available until Feb. 12, and you can reserve a table at 30 participating Queens restaurants, along with hundreds more across the five boroughs.