Lawmaker joins EmblemHealth and Campaign Against Hunger to address food insecurity in southeast Queens

EmblemHealth Pantry1
Courtesy of Senator Leroy Comrie’s office

Senator Leroy Comrie on Monday joined EmblemHealth and the Campaign Against Hunger for a pop-up pantry at the EmblemHealth Neighborhood Care facility in Cambria Heights.

Hundreds of boxes and bags filled with fresh produce, protein and nonperishables as well as cloth face masks and hand sanitizer were distributed to local residents in need at the center located at 206-20 Linden Blvd. 

Courtesy of Senator Leroy Comrie’s office

Since March, Comrie’s office has held 30 pop-up food pantries in partnership with houses of worship, local businesses and nonprofit organizations.

“The pandemic has exacerbated existing food insecurity issues in southeast Queens, but through partnerships like this with the business and nonprofit community, we have had tremendous success in helping working families put food on the table,” Comrie said. “I am grateful for the opportunity to work with EmblemHealth and the Campaign Against Hunger to make food more accessible for those in need in Senate District 14 during this difficult time.”

The event also coincided with the reopening of the local EmblemHealth Neighborhood Care office, which had been closed to the public as staff conducted services virtually and by telephone due to the pandemic.

“In a time where millions of New Yorkers face food insecurities or live in neighborhoods that lack healthy and affordable food options, coming together to give back to our communities is needed now more than ever. As a not-for-profit committed to health care for all of us and with over 40 locations in all of New York City’s neighborhoods, including underserved communities, an event like this is in our DNA. Despite COVID-19, serving the people is what we will always do,” said Beth Leonard, chief marketing and communications officer of EmblemHealth.

For many Queens families, the COVID-19 pandemic has been not only a public health emergency, but also an economic emergency that has laid bare existing food insecurity in the communities hit hardest by the virus. 

From the early days of the pandemic, when food supply chains were threatened by dramatic changes in consumer behavior and economic uncertainty, to now, when millions of New Yorkers are reporting loss of work or income, the need to fill the gaps for struggling families has been evident. Food pantries have played a critical role in filling those gaps. 

Last year, Queens Community Districts 12 and 13, the areas served by the Cambria Heights EmblemHealth Neighborhood Care facility, ranked highest in the Queens meal gap with a sum of nearly 12 million missed meals. The city considers many of these same neighborhoods to be among the “hardest-hit” by COVID-19. As the city begins recovering, providing for working families and seniors in these communities has been a priority for Comrie, EmblemHealth and the Campaign Against Hunger.

By establishing hundreds of new community partnerships in Brooklyn and Queens and significantly expanding warehousing, distribution and volunteer capacity, the Campaign Against Hunger has served over 960,000 — a 1,020 percent increase in its daily food distribution effort — during the pandemic.

“Our partnership with EmblemHealth and New York State Senator Leroy Comrie is an important one in our fight against hunger in New York City,” said Tamara Dawson, director of Programs at Campaign Against Hunger. “We are not only addressing food insecurity together; we are building health equity in our neighborhoods by connecting community care, wellness, food justice and social justice in southeast Queens in a time of unprecedented need. We are grateful for this opportunity to share resources and lift up our neighbors.”

EmblemHealth Neighborhood Care is partnering with The Campaign Against Hunger to host a series of pop-up pantry events in communities across New York City. They will distribute fresh fruits, vegetables and canned and boxed goods, while supplies last.

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