Food Charity Needs Increase in Glendale & Ridgewood

In the spring of 2024, amidst the ongoing recovery from a global pandemic, the neighborhoods of Glendale and Ridgewood in Queens, New York, are grappling with a rapidly intensifying crisis that belies their suburban affluence. With median home prices reaching $862,000 in Glendale and soaring to $1.2 million in Ridgewood, these communities present a façade of prosperity. However, beneath this veneer lies a starkly different reality: an escalating demand for food assistance that challenges the perception of suburban wealth.

The Campaign Against Hunger (TCAH), a vanguard in the fight against food insecurity, has reported a startling 181% increase in pantry services in Ridgewood and an even more concerning 281% increase in Glendale. These figures not only highlight a burgeoning crisis but also underscore the organization’s critical role in meeting an unprecedented demand for food assistance amidst dwindling resources. Despite facing challenges such as a decrease in funding, partly due to the exodus of donors from New York City, TCAH has managed to distribute over 25 million nutritious meals to more than 2 million community members since the onset of the pandemic. This response was unparalleled, significantly eclipsing their pre-pandemic impact and underscoring their pivotal role in the community’s resilience.

The underlying causes of this surge in food insecurity are multifaceted. The United Way’s True Cost of Living policy brief sheds light on the grim economic realities faced by residents, which are far removed from the average incomes that the home prices in these areas might suggest. Despite an average annual household income of $94,274 in these neighborhoods, with a median income of $77,350, the cost of living in New York City, amplified by the pandemic’s economic impact, has pushed an increasing number of families towards the brink of financial instability. This discrepancy highlights the inadequacy of median incomes to cover basic living expenses, including healthcare, childcare, and transportation, let alone the inflated housing costs.

The escalating demand for food assistance in Glendale and Ridgewood is a reflection of a broader societal issue, where the true cost of living far exceeds what many residents earn. This situation has resulted in a hidden crisis of hunger and food insecurity in communities that, on the surface, appear to thrive economically. Dr. Melony Samuels, the Founder & CEO of TCAH, emphasizes that behind every statistic is a real person or family facing difficult choices between paying bills and ensuring food security. “The numbers are a wake-up call,” she states, advocating for greater awareness and action to address this pressing issue.

TCAH’s efforts to combat hunger in these neighborhoods go beyond mere statistics. They represent a beacon of hope and solidarity, showcasing the importance of community organizations in providing essential services and support during times of crisis. The organization’s work, particularly in serving 15% of its client base from Glendale and Ridgewood, illustrates the critical need for both immediate and long-term solutions to urban food insecurity.

As TCAH continues to navigate the challenges of increased demand for food assistance, their work is a poignant reminder of the hidden hunger that persists in the midst of apparent abundance. It calls for a collective response from policymakers, community leaders, and the public to ensure that the fundamental right to food is not compromised by economic disparities. The situation in Glendale and Ridgewood exemplifies the urgent need for a comprehensive strategy to address the root causes of food insecurity, ensuring that no resident is left behind in the quest for a prosperous and equitable future.



  • Data, The Campaign Against Hunger internal data systems

Tackling Food Insecurity In Queens

Andy Rodriguez, Executive Director at The Variety Boys and Girls Club                                                                   


Clare Baierl  |  

Starting in July, the non-profit groups Queens Together and The Variety Boys and Girls Club of Queens, are partnering up in the creation of a new way to think about food insecurity.

Through a modern-take on current food relief, the program will provide a sit-down dining experience in some of the best restaurants in Queens to those in need. The pilot program, run by Queens Together, will run with a progressive mission that seeks to truly listen to the needs of their communities. 

When thinking about needs that are in the forefront of the community, the list can be exhaustive. While New York is often seen as a city with a plethora of resources, access to these resources are where many residents get stuck, Andy Rodriguez, Executive Director of the Variety Boys and Girls club, explains. Not everyone has equal access to grocery stores, or governmental assistance is the same way, and this can be a way in which many residents will suffer.

“We don’t realize that there are some neighborhoods, even within this area, that don’t have a supermarket for 20 blocks,” said Rodriguez.

Rodriguez noticed through his day-to-day work that many families in the community did not have access to basic daily essentials like hygiene products and food. On top of that, with summer in full swing and schools shut down, some programs that feed children in the neighborhood become unavailable. One in four children across the five boroughs face food insecurity, according to a 2021 analysis by Feeding America, and unfortunately that is just the beginning. Many children that need access to free food programs have families that also would benefit from those same services. But in New York, the need outweighs the demand by a large number.  

This is where the newly developed food relief program took an active approach to address this very issue in the community. Rodriguez, along with Jonathan Forgash of Queens Together are the passionate faces behind this new program. 

Forgash, a chef of thirty years and an enthusiastic community-based leader, initially developed the idea at the beginning of the pandemic in March of 2020. Realizing the drastic need for food security in his neighborhood during this period, he began working with local volunteers to donate food to its residents through food pantries and drop-off centers. The program was fully hands-on, without a location, or any resources of their own. 

Forgash led distribution of fresh produce through true community based kindness, from restaurants donating their time and space to help make meals, to strangers helping load and unload trucks from neighboring farms. As months went on, people began to notice his work in the community, having raised over 300,000 dollars in support.

The Variety Boys and Girls Club collecting food during the pandemic                                                         

On the other end of the spectrum, sits Rodriguez, who originally noticed through his club the urgent needs of his members and surrounding community. Rodriguez, as director and member for over seven years at The Variety Boys and Girls Club of Queens, said he has always seen the value of community outreach programs, even participating in similar programs as a child growing up in the area. With his over 20 years in the nonprofit industry, it seems as though he truly recognizes the importance of valuing and listening to those directly affected. 

The whole premise of the program is to try a new approach to feeding the community that promotes community and humanity for everyone involved. The program will allow families of four to come into a restaurant and sit down for a free hot meal made by those working within the local restaurants. 

“Restaurants in some ways are the backbone of any small community. We’re a public meeting space. People come for good reasons and bad reasons, some sad reasons and joyous reasons. But who better?” Forgash explained. This idea to use the communal aspect of a sit-down restaurant is at the core of the program. 

Too often, even within other non-profit organizations, people are not given access to spaces that allow them to congregate and eat together with their fellow community members, Forgash explained. This idea of promoting enthusiastic humanity through food is essential to the program experience. 

 “We can actually give these people a place to sit together like human beings, and share a meal… And not only are we going to feed them a good meal, but we’re going to help a small business make money and keep employees working,” Forgash said. This full-circle program promotes human-centered growth at every-level, not only helping those that need food, but also helping the local businesses that are involved. 

The restaurants that will begin working with the program will not only be able to serve their community during their off-hours, earn extra cash flow, but also, gain valuable tools for growth. The program will provide these partnering restaurants with essential business promotion from a grassroots level, through press, community newsletters and an enhanced social media presence. 

“Helping mom and pop businesses survive and thrive is one of the three ways to the middle class,” said Forgash. “We are literally feeding the community engine, with dollars, with food, with resources.” As Forgash emphasizes, helping local restaurants thrive is essential for community building from all levels. 

The Bel Aire Diner, on 21st and Broadway, is at the forefront of this program’s mission and success. A family owned business for decades, currently run by Kal Dellaportas, was enthusiastic to join from the start. While they will get a small profit through participation in Queens Together, it won’t make up for all the labor and space they will provide, he said.

“We are going to provide an american-style meal, maybe meatballs or an open-faced hot turkey sandwich,” said Dellaportas. “We don’t want to do something like burgers and fries, where you could get anywhere,” he explained. The meals will start this July at the diner, Dellaportas noted. “I hope it’s a huge success.”

As both groups involved prepare for the opening of the program, community support will be essential on every level. Even though he is a member of the neighborhood, the program is new, and therefore from the beginning must establish itself as a reliable resource in order to thrive, Forgash said. 

“We want [the community] to trust us,” said Forgash. “This is your organization. We exist for you.”


5 Community Fridges For Giving and Taking

The NYC Community Fridge Mapping project features 136 fridges across the city and allows anyone to post an update with a look inside the fridge.

By Iryna 

In an effort to address food insecurity during the pandemic, community fridges started by regular New Yorkers popped up across the city. Oftentimes they are regular fridges, colorfully decorated, that sit on the sidewalk. Anyone can open the door and take what they need, no questions asked. And If your circumstances permit, you are welcome to leave quality food items for others. 

The fridge movement is based on the concept of mutual aid, which rejects charity and encourages building interdependent relationships outside of power structures. It is powered through cooperation and the responsibility to take care of your neighbors. 

Currently there are 136 community fridges across the city, according to the NYC Community Fridge Mapping project which tracks their location and status. The site allows visitors to post photos and updates on the contents of a fridge to keep fridge users informed. Fridgekeepers can also add a new fridge or update the status of an existing one. 

There are several fridges that closed operations in the past several months due to various circumstances. But these five locations across Queens are still up and running. 

Fenix Community Fridge

Located in Ridgewood, this fridge is run by Beatriz Perez who started the project in the beginning of the pandemic. At the time, she was working at Fenix Car Service on Seneca Ave where the fridge is currently located. With the recent influx of Latin American migrants arriving in NYC, organizers at the location stepped up to collect clothes, strollers and other necessary goods on top of their regular food distribution work. They regularly post updates on collections and events. You can find them on Facebook at @FenixCFridge. 

Astoria Halal Fridge 

In an effort to accommodate Astoria’s Muslim residents, the fridge only accepts food donations that are designed halal. It is located on 3513 23rd Avenue in Astoria, just behind the gates of the Dar Al-Da’awa Mosque. Once a former church, the location is now under the Muslim American Society of Queens. The weekly stocked fridge was an initiative of Little Egypt NYC, a community seeking to create safe spaces and economic power for the Egyptian diaspora. More information can be found on their Instagram @astoriahalalfridge.

Glennon’s Community Fridge

This fridge has been operated by Becky Glennon outside her home in Rockaway since 2020. For the past three years, Glennon has been providing food despite resistance from her neighbors who tried to destroy the fridge. Last week Councilwoman Ariola and her staff delivered over 2,000 pounds of fresh produce, the largest donation the fridge has received so far. It is located on Beach 92nd Street between Rockaway Beach Boulevard and Holland Avenue. 

Ravenswood Community Fridge 

A fridge outside of Hour Children, a nonprofit organization that supports women and families impacted by a mother’s incarceration. It is located near the Ravenswood Houses on 12-14 36th Avenue in Astoria. You can’t miss the colorful fridge with a flying raven and “free food” painted on the door. There is also a space for book donations on the side. Local residents say that the fridge is maintained and utilized regularly. They can be found on Instagram at @ravenswoodfridge for updates. 

Maspeth Fridge

This fridge is located outside of Brothers Wash and Dry, a community space home to music events since the spring of 2019. It is run by Sampson Dahl, who also resides in the former laundromat. More information on the space can be found on his instagram @brotherswashndry or on his website

Eats in Queens Restaurant Month Tackles Food Insecurity

By Iryna Shkurhan |

Jonathan Forgash, far right, works with volunteers to deliver food to local residents.

This March, Eats In Queens Restaurant Month partnered with over 200 diverse eateries across the borough — and raised thousands for local food relief.  

Unlike NYC Restaurant Week, a twice-yearly event that offers discounted pre-set menus at restaurants across the city, the organizers of EIQ wanted to do more than help restaurants gain business during the slow season. Their goal was generating funds for food relief through restaurant promotion and partnership. 

The event was formulated by Jonathan Forgash, Executive Director of Queens Together, along with volunteers who share a passion for the multinational Queens restaurant scene. They set out to address food insecurity in their neighborhoods that affects Queen’s most vulnerable residents — Black, Latino and Asian New Yorkers, as well as recent or undocumented immigrants, older adults and those with children.

So far, Queens Together, the nonprofit organization behind the event, raised $30,000 to address food insecurity through individual donations. Their model provides patrons with a discount at  all participating restaurants with a minimum of a $25 donation to the organization. 

“It wasn’t just about promoting the restaurants. I saw it as an opportunity to encourage people to donate for food relief,” Forgash said in a phone interview. He says that the main goal of Queens Together is “creating a powerful voice to fight for our needs” by cultivating the resources necessary to be impactful in the community.

Forgash, a longtime Astoria resident with over 30 years of experience in the food and restaurant industry, started providing food relief to Queens residents during the early days of the pandemic. He and other volunteers raised money through social media to pay restaurants to prepare meals for local hospitals. They pivoted to feeding neighbors who were sick at home or out of work, all with the help of restaurants who lost all their dine-in business overnight and were grateful to generate income while supporting their neighbors.

“Everyone came together during COVID to help the people who needed it most. And it was really beautiful to see,” said Forgash, who estimates that they fed 300,000 neighbors in need over the course of three years. 

In March 2020, Beatrice Ajaero was days away from opening the doors of her West African restaurant, Nneji, in Astoria. The focus immediately shifted to providing food relief to her neighbors, some of whom lived in districts hit hardest by high COVID rates, Queensbridge and Astoria. 

“It was really difficult, I think, to separate that reality from our opening,” said Ajaero, who worked with Forgash to distribute groceries and hot meals to residents in western Queens throughout the pandemic.  

Since then, the goals of her restaurant are inseparable from the goals of feeding the community in a way that is culturally in tune. She believes that the most effective way to provide food relief in an immigrant haven like Queens is through aligning food aid with the recipient’s culture or restrictions. This can be achieved by partnering with community and faith organizations that know the needs of the group they represent the best.

“For someone who’s come through many, many, many, miles, the added stress of having to try to nourish themselves with food that doesn’t speak to them, that is not from their cultural background, it’s very, very difficult and sort of poses an added layer of challenge and distance,” said Ajaero.

Today, Nneji is one of the restaurants part of EIQ Restaurant Month and is offering patrons a ten percent discount. She says that the restaurant’s participation in the event has already brought more diners through her doors.

Ralph Trionfo, 53, is a longtime Jackson Heights resident and part time Queens Together volunteer. In his full time role he works as a liquor representative for Empire Merchants based in Astoria. But his proximity to the restaurant industry in his daily work gave him the opportunity to solicit restaurants.

“When we were in the pandemic, my biggest joy or source of happiness came from working with Jonathan and Queens Together, providing food relief for my neighbors,” Trionfo said. “Now they know that the organization has legs, and it’s not going anywhere, we’re gonna keep moving forward. Meaning they can count on us.”

Spanish speaking volunteers with Queens Together worked to recruit Hispanic restaurants in Elmhurst, Corona and Jackson Heights to participate. And Gordon Yu, a Queens native fluent in Chinese, went door to door in Flushing where he could relay the mission of the event more effectively. His efforts resulted in 17 partnerships with restaurants in Flushing. 

“Addressing the food access issue is really top of mind because when we can empower families with nutritious ancestral meals prepared by local restaurants who have local suppliers who often have local employees, the recirculation benefits are really powerful,” said Ajaero. 


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