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Queens Together delivers hot meals for Corona’s First Baptist Church food pantry

Queens Together, local restaurants and The First Baptist Church serve hundreds of fresh hot meals and frozen food to families facing food insecurity on Saturday, Jan. 9. (Photo by Gabriele Holtermann)

Queens Together organized local restaurants to help deliver hundreds of hot meals for the First Baptist Church’s food pantry in Corona on Saturday, Jan. 9.

Since the onset of the pandemic, the First Baptist Church at 100-10 Astoria Blvd. has served about 50,000 food insecure community members with their food pantry. On Saturday, families began to line up for the food pantry by 4 a.m., with the line wrapping around the block.

Reverend Patrick Young said people started lining up as early as Friday.

“They are going to get enough food here, to last until next Saturday. That’s why people come here,” said Reverend Young.

Families line up at the The First Baptist Church serving hundreds of fresh hot meals and frozen food to families facing food insecurity on Saturday, Jan. 9. (Photo by Gabriele Holtermann)

About a dozen church members handed out food and helped coordinate the flow, a relatively quick process with social distancing and masks strictly observed at all times.

Community members who picked up food had to sign in, and about six to seven people were allowed inside the church’s parking lot to gather the food. Unless a parent had a small child, only one person per family was allowed to pick up food.

Queens Together, local restaurants and The First Baptist Church serve hundreds of fresh hot meals and frozen food to families facing food insecurity. (Photo by Gabriele Holtermann)
Queens Together, local restaurants and The First Baptist Church serve hundreds of fresh hot meals and frozen food to families facing food insecurity. (Photo by Gabriele Holtermann)

Queens Together, a restaurant association created in March to help restaurants stay afloat while they feed frontline workers and at-risk community members, raised funds to pay several restaurants $1,000 to cook 100 hot meals for the families at First Baptist Church.

“It’s like good deeds all around. Neighbors contribute money through us to pay restaurants to help communities in need,” said Jonathan Forgash, co-founder of Queens Together. “There is a silver lining in this crisis, and that is watching people, I think, looking for something to do and stepping up proudly with their time and their money and their skills.”

(R-L) Jonathan Forgash, executive director of Queens Together; Rev. Patrick Young of the First Baptist Church; and Gabe Gross with Queens Together at the First Baptist Church food drive. (Photo by Gabriele Holtermann)

Since March, Queens Together has raised more than $200,000, most of which is due to donations of $20 to $50 from individuals; has worked with more than 50 restaurants to serve more than 40,000 meals and feed 7,000 to 10,000 people a week from Astoria to Far Rockaway.

Restaurants at Saturday’s food pantry included Farine Backing Company, The Queensboro, Nneji, Rice X Beans, Rincon Melania, Tortilleria Nixtamal and La Adelita.

Queens Together, local restaurants and The First Baptist Church serve hundreds of fresh hot meals and frozen food to families facing food insecurity. (Photo by Gabriele Holtermann)
Michael Migano and Sebastian Jack of Farine Baking Company contribute food to the First Baptist Church food drive. (Photo by Gabriele Holtermann)

For Shauna Page, co-owner of Tortilleria Nixtamal, Saturday was the second time they contributed to the First Baptist food pantry. They have also delivered tortillas to three community refrigerators in Astoria, Corona and Elmhurst as well as two other food pantries.

“We do what we can,” Page said. “We don’t have money, but we do have tortillas.”

Shauna Page with Tortilleria Nixtamal at the First Baptist Church food drive. (Photo by Gabriele Holtermann)

Dudley Stewart, co-owner of The Queensboro, served Southern-style chicken stew garlic, ham, tomato, cabbage and black-eyed peas. The Queensboro Chef Tony Liu started cooking the meals Friday night.

The restaurant has been donating food throughout the pandemic, within their neighborhood of Jackson Heights, as well as nearby neighborhoods and other boroughs. They also donated to several food pantries.

“We’re buying food for them at wholesale prices, so their dollar goes further,” said Stewart.

Stewart has noticed an increase in people needing food pantries.

“It is not getting better, it’s getting worse,” said Stewart. “It’s devastating. It’s just depressing every time I see this. I just feel very sad. This country is falling apart, and we are trying to hold it together as best as we can.”

In addition to the hot meals, First Baptist Church also handed out frozen foods like frozen bags of chicken fajitas, chicken breast, pasteurized frozen egg products and frozen ham.

Queens Together, local restaurants and The First Baptist Church serve hundreds of fresh hot meals and frozen food to families facing food insecurity. (Photo by Gabriele Holtermann)

A refrigerator will be donated to the church to help them store perishable items on Wednesday, Jan. 13. The church will also host a coat drive on Jan. 31.

Additional reporting by Gabrielle Holterman.

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