Queens community groups partner to support the borough’s diverse food scene

Queens Together Executive Director Jonathan Forgash (c.) and Queens Economic Development Corporation Executive Director Seth Bornstein (third from right, with protective mask) stand with stakeholders after providing meals to health care professionals at the frontline of the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo courtesy of QEDC)

Queens Together, an agency that provides free-of-charge advocacy for restaurants while also feeding underserved communities, has officially joined the Queens Economic Development Corporation (QEDC) to support the food industry of the “World’s Borough.”

Jonathan Forgash, executive director of Queens Together, described the new partnership as a “win-win” situation. 

“We now have one strong voice to represent, empower and support the diverse food industry of our amazing borough,” Forgash said. “We’re going to deliver resources, promotion and community engagement — everything a business needs for success. And please don’t forget: Queens Together is free to join and there are no membership fees.”

Queens Together will benefit from QEDC Executive Seth Bornstein’s years of nonprofit management experience, while QEDC will gain a department focused on the small business food industry and community-based relief efforts. 

“This is a great opportunity to help local restaurants, especially the smaller ones that are the backbone of their neighborhoods,” Bornstein said. “We’re excited to work with Queens Together and promote dining in our unique, authentic borough.”

Forgash, a chef who ran Star Struck Catering for more than 20 years, co-founded Queens Together in March 2020, as the city was shutting down due to COVID-19. 

Working with QEDC, the new organization raised money to hire local eateries to prepare thousands of ready-to-go meals for frontline health care professionals and neighbors facing hunger issues. Since then, Queens Together has provided meals, groceries and fresh produce to more than 275,000 individuals through food pantries and community-based alliances.

At the same time, Forgash built a de facto trade association that supports restaurants and other retail food operations with resources, promotion and community engagement. One of his goals is to create a powerful voice made up of member businesses from across the borough that will fight for the diverse community’s rights and needs.

For example, Queens Together organized the East River International Food Festival in Long Island City in May. Several thousand foodies enjoyed tastings from a few dozen restaurants at Sound River Studios that day. The agency also provided promotion and judges to the Grace Jamaica Jerk Festival New York in Roy Wilkins Park in July. The next big event is the grand opening of a Fogo de Chão Brazilian steakhouse in Elmhurst in early August.

In the near future, QEDC will present educational programming, job training, fun-filled food events, curated resources and advocacy for food businesses.

The group has a vast network of food makers, volunteers and community groups that could help city, state and federal agencies respond to future crises (such as extreme weather events) in the county.

Queens Borough President Donovan Richards, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, Councilwoman Julie Won, former Councilman Costa Constantinides and the New York Community Trust have allocated funds to Queens Together. 

“The Queens Economic Development Council and Queens Together have been two powerful forces for good that have helped lead the way in our efforts to spur Queens to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and be more prosperous than it ever was before,” Richards said. “By joining forces, these two outstanding organizations will do an even better job of advocating for the ‘World’s Borough’ and all of its small businesses. I look forward to working with these new partners to further bolster our borough’s burgeoning restaurant industry and the entire Queens economy.”