As New York City continues to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, there is still significant demand for food pantry services. However, pantries in the Ridgewood area are worried about operating if city funds aren’t continued through the new year.
Local food pantries like Woodbine, Fenix Community Fridge and Hungry Monk rely on the Pandemic Food Reserve Emergency Distribution Program (P-FRED) to provide for families struggling with food insecurity. But as a new mayoral administration takes over, local pantries are concerned that priorities will shift and funding for this program will be diverted elsewhere — even though there is still a great need for it.
Matt Peterson, an organizer at Woodbine, said there is great concern for the future of their pantry without the P-FRED program.
“The line for our food pantry hasn’t shrunk much over the last year, the need and the demand is still high, but donors and suppliers have dried up,” Peterson said. “There’s still a need to maintain this funding and to not abandon these families and communities.”
Woodbine receives donations from many businesses and donors, but Peterson said the largest contributor is the city’s P-FRED program.
“There’s some nervousness about how indefinitely we’ll be able to maintain the food pantry if those services don’t maintain themselves,” Peterson said. “We’re not certain how long the contract lasts for.”
Peterson mentioned that even though the city has made it through the worst of the pandemic — with a citywide vaccination rate now at 70% — many families still feel the harsh effects of the past two years.
“There’s this tendency to want to move on from the pandemic and move on from the crisis, and for many people, they’re able to do that economically, but a lot of people can’t,” Peterson said. “The crisis is still felt by a lot of people in a deep way, including a lot of people in Ridgewood. Without P-FRED, we would be in a much tighter spot.”
Hungry Monk alone served about 10,000 families a week during the height of the pandemic — that number has since dropped to 3,000 families a week. Hungry Monk also mainly relies on the P-FRED program to serve the community.
Father Mike Lopez, the leader of Hungry Monk, said that he blames elected officials who have not supported the food banks in the area.
“I think our local elected officials have failed tremendously in securing food for our community,” Lopez said. “They haven’t been involved as much as they should have. Ridgewood is still highly food-insecure. It’s a shame that our local electeds are so out of touch with that.”
The mayor’s office and Mayor-elect Eric Adams did not respond to requests for comment by publication.