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Photo courtesy of Queens Together

Two local food organizations, Queens Together and The Connected Chef, have partnered with Brighter Bites NYC to launch a new western Queens food pantry with fresh produce.

The initiative will safely provide 2,000 families throughout western Queens with fresh produce, complete with fruits and vegetables, at a time when food insecurity in the community is at an all-time high.

“Between loss of income, fears related to immigration status, and the risks associated with leaving home at this time, many families are not able to access fresh, nourishing food in adequate quantities,” said Jamie-Faye Bean, co-founder of Queens Together. “We are so gratified to have found this solution for a great program to continue an essential service to Queens families, and we are actively seeking to expand the program to include more recipients.”

The partnership took shape in a week, after Brighter Bites reached out to Queens Together for help. Brighter Bites’ regular distribution of fresh produce to families in Queens was no more due to the closure of schools amid the COVID-19 crisis.

By April 24, Queens Together — which was originally created by Bean and chef Jonathan Forgash to feed frontline workers while helping local restaurants stay in business — created a grassroots solution with The Connected Chef to provide 2,000 marginalized families with fresh produce. At the same time, they’re re-employing restaurant workers to pack produce and make deliveries.

Photo courtesy of Queens Together

A few weeks prior, The Connected Chef, founded by Astoria-based chef Kim Calichio, began their own initiative, Lifeline Grocery Delivery,  to serve fresh produce to vulnerable families in Queens.

“When I started The Connected Chef, I knew I wanted to use food to bring people together. Community has always been at the heart of our mission,” Calichio told QNS. “What feels so right about this collaboration with Queens Together and Brighter Bites is that they understand the importance of community connection. That’s why this work is so powerful — it involves so many levels if engagement in a time when we all feel disconnected. And we’re doing that with food. It’s quite beautiful.”

It’s because of The Connected Chef’s experience with local food purveyors and delivery system for families in need that Queens Together knew they needed to become partners.

Their distribution began on Tuesday, April 28, from the Plaxall Gallery warehouse in Long Island City. Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas joined them as they set up.

“It is so great to see my neighbors live in the spirit of public service,” Simotas said. “Queens Together, The Connected Chef and Brighter Bites are true examples of neighbors helping neighbors. As the novel coronavirus advances, food justice is more crucial now than ever. It is inspiring to witness the sense of community and solidarity that New Yorkers continuously exhibit in difficult times.”

Photo courtesy of Queens Together

To learn more about the effort, visit www.queenstogether.org.

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