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Queens senator recognizes local efforts to help food-insecure areas during the pandemic

Senator Gianaris presents awards Bishop Mitchell Taylor and Claudia Coger. (Photo credit to state Senator Michael Gianaris' office.)

State Senate Deputy Leader Michael Gianaris recognized community leaders for their service during the pandemic at the Astoria Houses Tenants Association annual family day celebration. 

During the event, Gianaris awarded the nonprofit Urban Upbound and its leader Bishop Mitchell Taylor with an award for serving nearly 100,000 food-insecure people during the pandemic. 

Taylor is also the senior pastor for the Center of Hope International ministry in Long Island City. The two organizations partnered to provide relief and recovery during the COVID-19 pandemic through the ministry’s food pantry, Bread of Life.

“Every one of our clients, in one way or another, had been touched by the pandemic,” Taylor said. “We wanted to figure out what we could do to make sure the people we served every year would have relief.”

Urban Upbound made sure that communities between northwestern Queens and Far Rockaway would have food. The organization operated out of a 10,000-square-foot warehouse in Long Island City. Taylor said about 50 volunteers came together to distribute food to 39 destinations in Queens. 

“We were getting 200,000 pounds of food per week that was coming into our facility then going out to the 39 locations around the Queens area,” Taylor said.

Urban Upbound started delivering food as soon as the state shut down in mid-March amid the pandemic. Just recently, relief efforts have ceased, and Urban Upbound has shifted their efforts toward recovery. 

“We closed the warehouse down, but Urban Upbound now is strictly focusing on recovery, resilience, helping local businesses and helping folks get back to work,” Taylor said. 

The Center of Hope International’s Bread of Life pantry is still operating three days a week. 

Taylor said when he started pasturing in 1987 he wanted to make sure he made a difference. 

“I set out my life and my work focused on breaking cycles of poverty, giving people the resources they need to make their lives better,” Taylor said. “When the pandemic hit, it wasn’t out of order for me, or us, to jump into service. I’m not the person to talk about it — I’m the person to be about it.”

Gianaris also recognized Claudia Coger from the Tenants Association for also providing food assistance to Queens residents. 

“I look forward to attending the Astoria Houses Family Day each year because of the spirit of community it fosters among neighbors,” Gianaris said. “I was pleased to recognize Coger and Taylor for their ongoing good works in our community.”

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