The Food Bank for New York City brought its Mobile Food Pantry Program to Ozone Park last week, along with an $80,000 donation from Stop & Shop to help keep the pantry stocked for weekly distributions through the summer.
Director of Special Projects for the nonprofit food bank Chantel Peters helped oversee the Mobile Food Pantry Program, situated at the corner where 101st Avenue and Liberty Avenue meet in southeast Queens, which is expected to feed 200-to-300 families each week between June 24th and August 26th.
“The Food Bank is here because our communities are struggling during this time and we want to ensure that folks don’t have to make a choice between their normal household responsibilities and food,” Peters said. “We’ve had some hardships throughout the Queens neighborhoods.”
Before the COVID-19 pandemic struck in early 2020, approximately 9.7 percent of Queens residents were food insecure. Today, the Food Bank for New York City projects that number to be nearly 16 percent of the borough, or 360,000 residents, having difficulty putting food on the table.
In 2021, the nonprofit distributed more than 121 million meals.
It’s a “360 degree” approach to tackling food insecurity according to Peters, who said that the Food Bank for New York City is equipped to try and end the cycle of poverty. With tax programs, community kitchens and pantries, along with nutrition programs promoting healthy cooking, the nonprofit aims to get to the root of food insecurity.
Peters said that instead of utilizing large-scale pop-up distributions, the nonprofit decided to do smaller and more dependable distributions in communities throughout the borough.
At the weekly pantries, food including proteins, whole grains, and dairy, as well as culturally relevant Halal food items will be distributed. Fresh fruit, produce and leafy greens will also be available in a farmer’s market style distribution. No identification or personal information is needed for food distribution, all that is asked is the size of the household.
Mohammad Khan, executive director of nonprofit Cityline Ozone Park Civilian Patrol (COPCP), can attest to the rising need of his own diverse neighborhood.
“Ozone Park… where nearly everyone is an immigrant,” Khan said.
The neighborhood of Ozone Park is nestled just to the east of Brooklyn neighborhoods Cypress Hills and East New York, and surrounded by Queens neighborhoods South Richmond Hill, Woodhaven and Howard Beach.
“The needs in this community are not just Ozone Park’s needs,” Khan said. “It’s also the needs of the areas around Ozone Park.
In COPCP’s own weekly and monthly food pantries, Khan has seen the lines grow over the past two years.
“The need has grown and we’re here to fulfill that gap,” he said. “We’re here to make sure that our community is taken care of by us.”