Volunteers organize emergency food distribution campaign in Flushing amid coronavirus crisis

Photo courtesy of the Greater Flushing Chamber of Commerce

Flushing community organizations are proactively organizing an outreach campaign to contact local residents, including homebound individuals, who may need emergency food assistance ahead of a possible city lockdown this week. 

Volunteers from the Greater Flushing Chamber of Commerce, Kissena Synergy, Mel for Progress, Flushing Interfaith Council, and other community organizations received a delivery of packaged food items March 18 at the La Jornada food pantry at the Bland Houses Community Center, located at 133-36 Roosevelt Ave. 

The La Jornada food pantry will act as an emergency food distribution center during the coronavirus crisis. 

(Photo courtesy of the Greater Flushing Chamber of Commerce)

“In this period of the COVID-19 crisis in NYC, the elderly and the disabled are our neighbors who face the most food insecurity in our community,” said Taehoon Kim, president of the Greater Flushing Chamber of Commerce. “I stand with La Jornada and other volunteers to deliver food to those in need around Flushing in case of a shelter-in-place policy going into effect.”

The city that never sleeps could be shutting down in 48 hours as Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Tuesday that he was considering whether to impose a shelter-in-place order, which would essentially require residents to stay in their homes and limit outside social contact to a minimum to slow the spread of the coronavirus. 

Meanwhile, more than 1,000 New Yorkers have tested positive for the new coronavirus as of Wednesday morning, according to Gov. Andrew Cuomo. 

Shweta Parmar, an ayurvedic eastern medicine practitioner at GutsierLiving, said the current COVID-19 pandemic not only reveals the ongoing challenges of hunger and availability of quality, healthy food in the immigrant community, but also deeply highlights the government’s unjust social and health inequalities and lack of preparedness for short-term and long-term solutions. 

“Beyond the virus, we are witnessing a social disease. As economic instability rises at this time, so does poverty, hunger, physical, mental, emotional and spiritual diseases for individuals, families and the community,” Parmar said. “It is essential to address the basic human right of access to food, fuel for life! Volunteers are filling this void.”

John Choe, executive director of the Greater Flushing Chamber of Commerce, added, “Our community won’t let our friends and neighbors fend for themselves.  We’re here to help and together. We will survive.”

In preparation for the possible city shutdown, volunteers will be using a Google Form to collect information, including the name, address, phone number and language spoken by the individuals needing assistance. The information will be used to schedule appointments for delivery of emergency food supplies by other volunteers who will walk, bike, or drive to the individuals needing assistance. 

“We’re proud to serve our community at this critical moment. Our volunteers will continue providing emergency food assistance even if our city is locked down,” said Pedro Rodriguez, executive director of the La Jornada Food Pantry. “However, in order to sustain this critical service, we need volunteers and money. Please help us help our community.”

Food distribution at the site is currently scheduled for Thursdays and Fridays from noon to 9 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to noon. To reduce safety risks associated with crowding during distribution, advanced registration is required at pedrolajornada@gmail.com or call 917-880-5693.

Anyone interested in volunteering can apply via Google Form.

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