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Photo courtesy of NYS Senator Ramos Office
State Senator Jessica Ramos distributing halal meals on Saturday, May 23.

Queens Senator Jessica Ramos distributed more than 800 halal meals in Jackson Heights on Saturday, May 23, as hundreds of Muslim community members celebrated Eid-al-Fitr, one of the biggest holy festivals that marks the end of Ramadan.

Ramos distributed the hot meals at 69th Street and 37th Avenue in the early afternoon, and at her district office at 5 p.m.

The hot meal distributions were two of three fresh food giveaways Ramos hosted to assist families and individuals struggling with hunger and food insecurity due to the COVID-19 crisis. During the first distribution of the day, Ramos and her team gave away 40,000 pounds of food sourced from New York state to those in need.

Saturday marked Ramos’ fourth week distributing food for the community.

“While our communities have taken a blow in the wake of COVID-19, Queens residents have remained resilient thanks in part to our weekly food giveaways. Week after week, people show up and we will continue to show up for them if it means coming out of this crisis stronger than ever,” said Ramos. “As our Muslim neighbors celebrate the end of Ramadan and break their fast on Eid-al-Fitr, our priority is to provide halal meals for anyone who might be food insecure. Though this has not been an ordinary Ramadan, we are here to support our community as they observe this holy day. We are thankful to GrowNYC for providing meal boxes to deliver to our neighbors who can’t make it in person and grateful for our continuing relationships with our NYS farms, the Street Vendor Project and our partners who help us keep feeding New Yorkers.”

Ramos and her team have distributed more than 3,000 hot meals to Queens residents thanks to her partnership with Street Vendor Project, which has helped some street vendors in the community receive economic assistance. Most street vendors in the community are unable to earn an income due to the pandemic and are ineligible for unemployment benefits, leaving them unable to provide for their families.

Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas also joined Ramos at the distribution.

Ramos recently partnered with nonprofit GrowNYC, as their new Emergency Fresh Food Box Program allowed Ramos and her team to deliver boxes of regionally sourced, farm-fresh and nutrient-dense food to the homes of constituents who were physically unable to make it to the in-person distribution.

“Our work to provide all five boroughs with access to fresh and healthy food is more important now than ever, and we are proud to work with ‘Food Czar’ Kathryn Garcia on the Emergency Food Box Program, part of the city’s  ‘Feeding New York’ plan to get food in the hands of every New Yorker struggling due to the current health crisis,” said GrowNYC President and CEO Marcel Van Ooyen. “We are grateful for leaders like Senator Ramos who have teamed up with us on distributing these boxes, filled with fresh, nutritious food from New York farmers, and who recognize that the health of our amazing city is linked to the health of our regional food shed.”

Ramos also partnered with NYC Census 2020 to offer linguistically and culturally appropriate on-site census questionnaires to increase the self-response rate in the area. The current self-response rate for Queens and the city are at 49 percent, with North Corona at approximately 33 percent and East Elmhurst at approximately 38 percent.

The Census determines the allocation of hundreds of billions of dollars in federal funds annually for education, housing, transportation, job training and healthcare. It also determines the number of representatives New York has in Congress — and if undercounted, the state could lose up to two congressional seats following the 2020 Census.

“From Ditmars Boulevard to Queens Boulevard, we’re proud to be partnering with Senator Ramos to ensure that the future of our neighborhoods hardest hit by COVID-19 isn’t further shortchanged by a lack of response to the census,” said Julie Menin, Director, NYC Census 2020 and Executive Assistant Corporation Counsel, NYC Law Department. “We thank Senator Ramos for her tireless efforts to ensure that the people of her district are getting the food they need to survive during this unprecedented time, and to ensure that they are being counted in the census, which will determine New York City’s recovery for years to come.”

Ramos has partnered with many other local and state organizations for her food programs, including farms from across New York that already have contributed more than 140,000 pounds of fresh produce and milk; Northeast Dairy Producers Association; NY Corn and Soybean Growers Association; Northeast Agribusiness and Feed Alliance; Food Bank of New York City and local food pantry Elmcor, which used the state’s new $25 million Nourish New York program that allows food pantries to pay the farms; the Hispanic Federations Skanska which provides a forklift to move the palettes of food; Together We Can Community Resource Center; and the Jackson Heights, East Elmhurst and Woodside COVID-19 Care Neighbor Network Fund.

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