Met Council leader warns of ‘catastrophe’ for low-income families in Queens due to lack of pandemic-era federal food aid

Elected leaders from across the borough stopped by the Met Council Passover food distribution in Kew Gardens on Sunday. (Courtesy of Met Council)

As an accomplished legislator, law professor and media personality with broad experience in government and not-for-profit organizations, Met Council CEO and executive director David Greenfield is well aware of the power of words. With Passover arriving on Wednesday, April 5, and with federal pandemic food assistance no longer available to low-income families in Queens, the leader of the nation’s largest Jewish charity organization warned of a coming “catastrophe” and called for the city to step up to provide $13 million in emergency funding for pantries to help New Yorkers facing food insecurity and elevated costs of living in the borough.

“What we’re seeing is really a catastrophe for well over a million New Yorkers,” Greenfield said. “We’re hearing from our clients that they’re rationing things like medication, they’re not going to be able to pay their rent and they can no longer pay for things like childcare.”

A traditional Passover seder is the ritual meal at the beginning of the holiday and while inflation has been waning in recent months, food costs remain extremely expensive.

In 2022, Met Council shattered all Passover records serving more than 320,000 New Yorkers to help them celebrate the holiday in dignity. On Sunday, elected officials showed their support for the Met Council free Passover food distributions at Tomchei Shabbos Queens on Metropolitan Avenue in Kew Gardens.

“I have joined Met Council many times over the years for the kickoff of its Passover food distribution and it’s an honor to join them again this year,” Congresswoman Grace Meng said. “Throughout the year, Met Council does outstanding work in helping to make sure that New Yorkers don’t go hungry, and I commend its team for ensuring that hundreds of Queens families have food for the holiday. I especially thank all the volunteers who help pack, load, and distribute these Passover food deliveries to make sure that they reach those in need.”

Meng also saluted Tomchei Shabbos for being one of the many distribution organizations taking part including United Jewish Organizations of Williamsburg, the Jewish Community Council of Marine Park, and the Council of Jewish Organizations Flatbush.

“Food deprivation is a real issue for many families,” Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz said. “Those that provide supplies and sustenance, like Tomchei Shabbos, are not only important during holidays, but year round.”

Last year, Met Council distributed 5,825,328 ounces of grape juice, 181,863 pounds of chicken, 78,125 pounds of fish (including gefilte fish), and 64,253 pounds of matzo.

To ensure well-balanced meals, Met Council distributed fruits and vegetables, primarily fresh produce; 18% was healthy proteins — including chicken, fish, and eggs — while 7% were extras including oil, kosher-for-Passover cake mix, mayonnaise, spices, and grains due to the requirements of the holiday.

“Now more than ever, it is so important to provide food to those in need,” Councilwoman Lynn Schulman said. “With increased inflation and the end of federal pandemic funds, the recent Met Council food distributions will enable vulnerable New Yorkers to enjoy the Jewish holiday of Passover.”

State Senator Leroy Comrie joined his colleagues in government during the Kew Gardens Passover distribution.

“I was pleased to join my friends from the Met Council at a food distribution event at the Tomchei Shabbos in Queens,” Comrie said. “For over thirty years, TSQ has provided food to needy families & individuals suffering from food insecurity. As Passover approaches, I was happy to lend my support and volunteer in this noble civic effort to serve our community and I extend my thanks to TSQ as well the volunteers and team at Met Council for their continuing service to Queens residents.”

Councilwoman Linda Lee also stopped by the holiday food distribution in Kew Gardens.

“It was a pleasure to join Met Council at Tomchei Shabbos of Queens as they packaged approximately 400 meals for families in need,” Lee said. “With Passover quickly approaching, I am grateful for all of the volunteers who are working to combat food insecurity in our neighborhoods as the community prepares for the holiday.”