By Jeremy Walsh
Long Island City’s Hour Children food pantry got a visit from an Angel last week — the Mets outfielder, that is — who brought with him a much-needed influx of food for the center, which serves the Queensbridge, Ravenswood and Astoria houses.
The Mets’ Angel Pagan, the food company Goya and City Harvest plan to donate 5,000 pounds of food they gathered at the team’s Hispanic Heritage Night in September. Some 1,000 pounds of that went to Hour Children during a Dec. 16 visit.
“People loved having Angel Pagan here,” said Christy Robb, the pantry’s director. “He was so lovely. He stayed for quite a long time. He talked to everyone.”
Robb said the pantry serves as many as 160 families a week, including many from the projects that house a large number of the city’s poor, and has had to resort to rationing tactics like forcing clients to choose between milk and juice and to take two protein items instead of three.
The donation, which included cans of low-sodium black beans, hominy, boxes of Spanish-style rice and dry black beans, would probably last through three cycles at the pantry.
“We were very happy, because we’ve never worked directly with Goya, so this could be the start of other future collaborations with us,” she said. “They’re going to talk to us about potentially selling to us, passing a potential discount to us.”
According to a survey conducted by the city nonprofit Coalition Against Hunger, 60.4 percent of the Queens pantries that responded to the survey this year did not have enough food to meet the growing demand, compared with 76.8 percent in 2008. But at the same time, 48.7 percent of the Queens agencies reported receiving less government food and money than last year. Some 15.4 percent reported no change in government support.
At Hour Children, those circumstances coupled with a 33 percent increase in demand meant there were no turkeys or chickens for families on Thanksgiving. Fortunately, Robb said, the City Food Bank sent 48 medium-size turkeys to the pantry for Christmas along with a number of packages of frozen fish. A number of chickens were donated by another source.
“Christmas is looking way better than Thanksgiving,” she said.
Food donations are always welcome at Hour Children, Robb said, but she noted that cleaning supplies and toiletries -— which are not covered by food stamps — are always in high demand.
Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.