Cruz, who has served as the program coordinator of Iglesia Biblica Restauracion soup kitchen in Sunnyside for six years, said sometimes she needs a little help herself. Once a month, she visits a food pantry in the Bronx, where she lives, to get some extra food items she can cook later.
“You can empathize with people, how they feel when they struggle, because you struggle yourself,” said Cruz.
The soup kitchen is run by a church, but everyone is welcome to eat, regardless of what religion they practice, or even whether or not they are homeless. Sometimes, however, Cruz has to put her foot down.
“It’s horrible but sometimes you have to send someone away because you don’t have anything to give them,” said Cruz.
She estimates that the soup kitchen, which is open once a week, has seen a 25% rise in the number of people it feeds since the recession started; 150-160 people line up outside the soup kitchen every Saturday to get a hot meal of soup and a sandwich or rice/macaroni with meat.
Even though there is a food pantry just three blocks away, the church also informally operates one. People have traditionally donated items like cans, beans and bags of rice, but Cruz said the food donations have dwindled as these generous people have fallen on hard times themselves.
For the past six years, Food Bank For New York City, a non-profit organization, has helped provide the soup kitchen with necessary resources. Target also recently donated $5,000, an amount that will help provide an estimated 25,000 meals.
Cruz hopes all the extra support will allow Iglesia Biblica to keep helping the community through a really tough time.
“Seeing their smiles and when they ask for something, being able to give it to them, it’s a good feeling,” said Cruz.