Food supplies down at Ridgewood Center

The cupboard is growing bare at food pantries throughout the city, and while one Queens facility is doing its best to keep up with the increased demand - it has not been easy.
“Sometimes the food [for the month] is literally gone in two weeks,” said Jacqueline Eradiri, the Executive Director of the Ridgewood Older Adult Center. “I don’t like having to turn people away.”
A November report released by the New York City Coalition Against Hunger (NYCCAH), showed that demand was up at more than 80 percent of charitable food pantries and soup kitchens in the borough. Meanwhile, 67 percent of charities surveyed said their lack of resources has forced them to either turn away customers or slash operating hours in the past year.
“Queens has the largest population of seniors in the five boroughs,” Eradiri said. “That can extrapolate into higher food pantry demands because they tend to live on a fixed budget.”
Meanwhile, the Ridgewood Older Adult Center helps people of a variety of ages and backgrounds.
“When I first started coming here and to other food programs in the neighborhood, I didn’t have any food in my house at all,” said Florence Desborough, 52. “If these programs weren’t available a lot of people would be in dire straits.”
Desborough wears tattered clothes, has dirt smeared on her cheek and is missing teeth. She lost her job as a paraprofessional with the Department of Education five years ago, after a battle with schizophrenia caused her to miss too much work. Her monthly income from odd jobs and welfare totals just $300, so visiting food pantries has become a vital part of her daily routine.
The Ridgewood Older Adult Center’s food bag program provides nutritional meals to those in need. Once a month, center members can pick up a shopping bag filled with juice, powdered milk, cereal, rice, beans, canned fruit, meat, fish and vegetables. However, the portions are generally very small.
“They [The Food Bank for New York City] try to base it on the food pyramid, so that you have some starch, vegetables and fruit, but it’s just not enough,” said Eradiri. “It’s maybe two meals for a small group of people, but not a large family.”
In addition, sometimes the center receives items that the German and Italian population of Ridgewood does not find appealing.
“One time they gave us grits. Another time, they sent us collard greens instead of green beans,” Eradiri said. “People here don’t know what grits are. They would hand them back to us and say ‘I know we’re not going to eat these.’”
The center relies on food drives at local schools and grocery donations from local to supplement its dwindling food supply. Eradiri also has applied for a $10,000 grant from the New York Department of Youth and Community Development, which would help the food bag program expand. The center wants to purchase supermarket gift cards that the needy could use to buy the items food stamps do not cover, such as shampoo and other personal items.
Iris Sedano, 65, has been volunteering at the food bag program since 2002. She said getting out of the house and helping others has helped her battle depression and an accident that left her with a glass eye.
“I come here. I help out,” she said. “It makes me feel good.”
Throughout the year, and especially during the holiday season, The Ridgewood Older Adult Center welcomes food donations of dry goods and other non-perishables.
“If you know a food pantry or soup kitchen near you and you want to help out just bring in a bag of food, it will be greatly appreciated,” said Eradiri. “No one is going to turn you away.”

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