But despite these setbacks, said one grower, Dave Shapiro, gardeners are still harvesting far too much produce. When he realized much of the surplus crops were being thrown away, he enlisted Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley to create a program to collect and donate the food to seniors, free of cost.
On August 17, their joint vision bore fruit when they hosted the first-ever “Vegetables for Seniors Day.”
The event, held at the Middle Village Adult Center on 75th Street, attracted several dozen seniors looking for fresh, free vegetables and fruit. It will be held periodically throughout the remainder of the harvest season.
Seniors lined up for eggplants, tomatoes, scallion, onions and other produce, including a variety of fruit and herbs.
The food was donated by growers and three area supermarkets who agreed to participate in the program: Florist Hills on Woodhaven Boulevard, the Key Foods on 63rd Drive, and the C-Town on Metropolitan Avenue.
“Who better to bring extra produce to, especially fresh, locally grown products, than our seniors?” Crowley said at the event, where she helped pass out vegetables. “With the cost of everything going up today there’s no better time.”
“Its great, especially for senior citizens [who have fixed] incomes,” said Dave Parker, a Middle Village resident and gardener who attended the event. “I’ll be back.”
Paulina Tobacco, who lives in Richmond Hill, said the free produce would be a big help.
“I’m interested in the vegetables because I do cook,” said Tobacco. “I think this is lovely.”
The next scheduled “Vegetables for Seniors Day” will take place at the same location on September 14, according to Crowley’s office, which plans to host them at several-week intervals through the end of October.
Shapiro said he is confident the idea will catch on.
“We’re hoping that this will become a movement,” and spread to neighboring Queens communities, Shapiro said. (Daniel Bush)