Ramadan Food Drive feeds 150 families in Astoria

Facing Rising Prices, Astoria Welfare Society Distributes Staples for Holy Month

 

By Alicia Venter

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The Astoria Welfare Society partnered with Hydro-Quebec and Queens Together to support the needs of Islam-practicing Astorians with a food drive for the start of Ramadan on Thursday.

Over 150 families were fed on the first day of Ramadan, each given staple cooking ingredients including flour, dates, beans and oil — these basic items are crucial for the month of Ramadan, explained Md. Jabed Uddin, the general secretary of the Astoria Welfare Society.

“Every week, in different places, we are serving the community,” he said. The Astoria Welfare Society is also keeping a community fridge for Ramadan, and is distributing food to mosques throughout the area to break fast.

Ramadan is the holy month of fasting in Islam, and the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. Observed by Muslims across the world, it is a month of prayer, reflection and fasting, abstaining from food and drink between dawn to sunset. This fasting is to increase spiritual discipline and strengthen one’s relationship with Allah. 

Hydro-Quebec donated $2,000 for the food drive after Peter Rose, the Director of Stakeholder Relations in New York, was told by Uddin that the Astoria Welfare Society wouldn’t be able to host a food drive this year. Without any other financial support, Rose was more than willing to offer what the Astoria Welfare Society needed. 

“This was a basic community need that was not being met. As a good corporate citizen, this was something we should help with, so I’m really happy,” Rose said.

With the Consumer Price Index showing a drastic six percent increase in inflation for New York City, the average cost of living for residents has inherently grown with it. 

“I go to the grocery store and everything is more expensive. It wouldn’t surprise me that people are going to have a hard time getting just the basics for Ramadan. So I said yeah, we are going to sponsor this, because it’s the most important month of the entire year,” Rose shared.

Hydro-Quebec is an electricity company based in Canada that generates more than 99% of its electricity from water. In a 25-year contract with the city, Rose expressed how their long-time permanence in New York gives them an obligation to participate and support the community. Notably, they have been involved in the Variety Boys & Girls Club of Queens, and have partnered with a local laundromat to ensure low-income children have access to clean clothes for school.

“We do all these community projects because we need to leave a legacy,” Rose said. “We need to help support the community in the needs they have.”

Soon after Hydro-Quebec threw their support behind the food drive, Queens Together, with Councilwoman Julie Won’s office, provided $1,000 for the drive.

A restaurant association and community service organization, Queens Together started in 2020 — the start of the pandemic — to help small businesses and the community. 

“Give people the staples they need to cook, and that empowers them to take care of their families,” shared Jonathan Forgash, co-founder and Executive Director of Queens Together.

Fogo de Chão partners with Queens Together to feed locals

First Queens location to open in Elmhurst later this year

By Jessica Meditz

[email protected]

Fogo de Chão, an internationally renowned restaurant founded in Southern Brazil in 1979, will soon make its Queens debut.

Later this year, the restaurant will open a brand new location next to Queens Center Mall in Elmhurst—marking its first Queens location, fifth in New York and 67th globally.

In preparation and celebration of the upcoming opening, Fogo de Chão partnered with Queens Together, an organization formed during the COVID-19 lockdown to address food insecurity.

Last Friday, the two groups came together at First Baptist Church of Elmhurst to provide fresh, high quality meals to over 1,500 community residents.

Fogo de Chão and volunteers worked together to provide people with meats butchered and prepared on their full-sized mobile churrasco grills.

Folks enjoyed their signature churrasco-style meats—Fraidinha and Picanha—along with mixed greens and their well-loved potato salad.

“Coming to Queens is such an amazing opportunity for us because it’s the most culturally diverse city and borough, and that’s what we love to do at Fogo,” Katie Calvin, general manager of Fogo de Chão, said.

“Especially for people who are from Latino or Hispanic countries, they often don’t have somewhere to go that feels like home,” she continued. “That’s why we love that we’re coming to Queens; we’re really excited.”

In addition to the Queens event, Fogo de Chão is committed to providing for the communities they serve, and arranges for mobile events to take place across the U.S.

Queens Together was also proud of their presence at the event, continuing their mission of empowering, representing and supporting the local restaurant community, as well as Queens residents in need.

We’re just trying to be a forward-facing program. We try to close all the gaps and connect people with food and services, and with restaurants in general, our biggest thing is trying to help them stay in business,” Devin Kloss, media director at Queens Together, said.

“Our goal is just to be somebody that they can call when they have a question, and then either we’ll find out the answer, or we’ll find the person to get them the answer,” he continued. “That’s really our goal.”

Mets third baseman Eduardo Escobar helped prepare food at the event.

Also in attendance was third baseman for the Mets, Eduardo Escobar, who is a big fan of the restaurant.

“It was actually a really organic, beautiful connection that was made with Eduardo. He started to eat at Fogo, and we started to hear him saying, ‘Fogo power,’ and ‘I play better after Fogo,’” Calvin said.

“Now we have luckily have a really tight-bonded relationship, and a percentage of our sales go to his foundation, where he provides to kids mostly in Venezuela with baseball materials, opportunities, food and supplies.”

Escobar spoke fondly of Fogo de Chão as he helped prepare the meats that went out into the community, and is happy that the restaurant so close to his heart is now physically close to him, where he plays baseball.

“The food is just so delicious, and I love everything about it. The people are also so nice,” Escobar said.

“Everything they’re doing to help the community is so important and special, and this is an amazing opportunity,” he continued. “God bless this restaurant. The food helps me feel at home.”

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