Jonathan Forgash, co-founder and executive director of Queens Together, said that matching grants from ten Queens-based groups made it possible to distribute the turkeys just in time for Thanksgiving.
“Since the start of COVID, we’ve been working with community groups from around the borough giving meals out to neighbors,” said Forgash. “The silver lining of COVID has been working with thousands of donors, volunteers, restaurants, community groups, churches, elected officials and business leaders to raise the money and do the work. It’s really kind of inspiring.”
Between restaurant meals, food pantries and grocery giveaways, Forgash estimates that Queens Together has fed 200,000 people since the beginning of the pandemic.
A chef of 25 years, Forgash said he was astonished at how food insecurity impacted his own stomping grounds of Astoria.
“I thought the food pantry here wouldn’t be as hard hit as Flushing, Corona and East Elmhurst,” he said in the parking lot of the Variety Boys and Girls Club (VBGC) in Astoria. “I was just wrong. We were handing out produce every Thursday to 500 families in Astoria. People were standing here for hours waiting for food.”
The 1,000 turkeys went to Astoria Houses, Sunnyside Community Services, VBGC, Louis Masonic Lodge in Marine Park, and the office of Assemblywoman Jessica Gonzales-Rojas.
“Queens Together has been a great partner,” said VBGC CEO Costa Constantinides. “They were feeding people here in our parking lot during the pandemic. So many families are still struggling from COVID. Being able to give at this time of year is special.”