Food Pantries Power Through the Pandemic

Getting food power to the people during a pandemic (l to r) North Brooklyn Angels, Southside United HDFC—Los Sures, and Trinity Human Services Corp. (Exec. Dir Father Raphael Zwolenkiewicz pictured)

Tuesdays in October brought much needed extra food to local food pantries from the USDA Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) aka Farmers to Families via the Food Bank For New York City. The pandemic is persistent and devastating even in its non-health related effects on the most vulnerable in our community — the need for food pantries has increased as those who have lost work because of COVID-19 are added to those who were in dire economic straits pre-pandemic. The food pantries at Trinity Human Services Corp. (THSC) and Southside United HDFC —Los Sures were among those that distributed these bonus Tuesday shipments. Each person received a Farmers to Families box containing produce, meat, cheese, and pantry items; they were then given a gallon or two of milk in addition to the box. The North Brooklyn Angels distributed pallets of bulk fresh and frozen food received from Food Bank For New York City to community partners who serve neighbors in need. On November 3, they posted on Facebook that the last 33,000 pounds of donated family food boxes were picked up, and this brought the total to 600,000 pounds of food that the Angels distributed.

The THSC food pantry volunteers and staff led by Sister Victoria Kamungu (center). Among those pictured with her are Nicholas, Meital, Sister Cordelia, and Jeannette

Trinity Human Services Corp.

THSC’s food pantry (153 Johnson Ave.) located behind Most Holy Trinity R.C. Church operates Tuesday–Friday in two shifts: 9 a.m.–12 p.m. and 1 p.m.–4 p.m. and as the word spread about the October Tuesdays, the line-up to receive food grew very long on these days. I visited this food pantry on the second Tuesday and the line was nearly three blocks long. This food pantry is led by Sister Victoria Kamungu, the THSC Deputy Executive Director.  Father Raphael Zwolenkiewicz, the Executive Director of THSC and pastor of Most Holy Trinity since July 2019 praised Sister Victoria’s ability to procure grants, donations, and surplus food assistance so the food pantry can supply the growing community need for essential food.

Pre-pandemic THSC’s food pantry served 3,500 per month. When NYC began the shutdown in March, the pantry had to close, but Sister Victoria found community partners such as St. Nicks Alliance to help distribute the food until the pantry could reopen. Now they are back to serving the public but have had to change their operations to adapt to COVID-19 safety protocols. Instead of being able to shop the pantry in a client’s choice style, guests are given a pre-bagged selection of items. THSC is the only emergency food pantry open four days a week in the surrounding area and welcomes all in need.

Trinity Human Services Corp. is located at 153 Johnson Ave. If you’d like to donate click here. If you’d like to volunteer click here.

 

Robin Sirota-Bassin, Social Services Director of Southside United HDFC-Los Sures (2nd from left) pictured with the food pantry crew made up of volunteers and staff (pictured) Nelly Medina, Jesennia Rodiguez, Chris Sroka, Jay Brown, Pablo Gomez, William, David Ruiz, Felix Rosario, and Susana Pacheco

Southside United HDFC —Los Sures

Southside United HDFC—Los Sures’s food pantry (145 South 3rd St.) is open on Tuesdays from 9 a.m.–12 p.m. They are experiencing a massive increase in demand for their supply since COVID-19 changed things around in NYC. In February 2020 they served 1580 individuals; in September they served 9780 individuals.  One factor of this increase is that those who would access the pantry once a month before COVID-19 are now coming once a week. To address the added need they earned a New York City Food Assistance Collaborative grant, which has provided a walk-in refrigerator, shelving, and freezers to store the increased supply received from Food Bank For New York City, Nourish New York, and City Harvest. Los Sures also adds produce they harvest from their hydroponic farm. Earlier this year they gave out 80 heads of lettuce. Grow NYC farmers markets at Domino and McCarren Parks also donate their surplus from the weekend markets to Los Sures’s food bank.

Los Sures also received grant money to prepare the distribution area for the colder months as it is all outdoors. This food bank was also a supermarket style pantry, and it is now distributing the food pre-bagged. In addition to groceries, prepared meals from some local restaurants have been given out.  Pies ‘n’ Thighs is one, which has an awesome partnership with Los Sures, and Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez helped to make connections with some others. Los Sures has also brought other opportunities to those waiting on line (which sometimes begins at 7 a.m.) by offering them PPE or advocating for Census 2020 participation. This food pantry relies heavily on staff and on volunteers who are “Putting lives on the line to serve the community,” said Robin Sirota-Bassin, Southside United HDFC—Los Sures Social Services Director.

 To donate to Southside United HDFC—Los Sures click here.

Felice Kirby (Exec. Dir. North Brooklyn Angels) with two of her fellow angels who helped to distribute 600,000 pounds of food since the start of the pandemic.

North Brooklyn Angels

Before the pandemic hit you’d see the sky blue food truck serving hot mid-day meals Monday through Friday at 862 Manhattan Avenue (in front of St. Anthony of Padua Church), 240 Division Avenue (Williamsburgh Library), 195 Maujer Street (St. John the Evangelist Lutheran Church), Jackson Street and Debevoise Avenue (Cooper Park Houses), 157 Johnson Ave (Most Holy Trinity Church parking lot), and 1 Havemeyer Ave (Mt. Carmel Church).  Once the pandemic struck they added one more site: the Greenpoint Community Meal on Saturday mornings at 11 a.m. In addition they have been an intermediary in supplying local food pantries with Farmers to Families food boxes and bringing meals to essential workers. “We have brought in 600,000 pounds of food and shared it, almost weekly, with our partners with whom, together, we feed  over 7,000 people. We distribute diapers, socks, hats, hygiene kits, anything useful that we can get a hold of and pass it on to whomever needs it,” stated Felice Kirby, North Brooklyn Angels Executive Director.

Looking ahead North Brooklyn Angels has recently announced their “Neighbors Giving Thanks” project, which intends, “to bring a joyful and dignified Thanksgiving to our neighbors in Greenpoint/Williamsburg amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.” They have set the following goals for this project: distribution of almost 1,500 frozen turkeys to local families in need, the preparation and distribution of over 1,000 delicious holiday meals at their regular community outposts on the Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday before Thanksgiving, and on Thanksgiving Day Thanksgiving Day the Brooklyn XPO Center (generously donated) will be the destination for a socially-distanced sit-down holiday feast to local neighbors (with pick up options available of freshly packaged meals), while delivering fresh and delicious meals to home-bound Seniors.

To donate to the Neighbors Giving Thanks project click here. For reservations for community meals, questions, or those interested in volunteering please email neighborsgivingthanks2020@gmail.com.

Author: Lori Ann Doyon

Managing editor, head writer, and lead photographer of Greenline | North Brooklyn News since October 2014. Resident of Williamsburg, Brooklyn since 1990.

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