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Jackson Heights food drive helps feed those in need
BY GABRIELE HOLTERMANN
Despite bitter cold wind
chills, a long line of food-insecure
New Yorkers formed on the
sidewalk along 35th Avenue on
March 2 outside the Salvation
Army Queens Temple Corps
Community Center in Jackson
Th e Jackson Heights Corp
has seen an increase of 400 percent
of residents requiring food
assistance since the pandemic
started, Salvation Army Major
Guillermo Di Caterina said.
Th e Corp operates a soup kitchen
serving between 300 and 400
community members Monday
through Friday, as well as a food
pantry program three days a
week, providing meal boxes for
300 to 350 families a week.
Di Caterina explained that
before the pandemic, the soup
kitchen served around 150 people
a day and about 50 families a
week received packages from the
food pantry. Th e boxes include
canned food, cereal, pasta and
meat. City Harvest delivers four
to six pallets of produce and dry
food to the corp every Tuesday.
Other food pantry staples are
purchased with grants from the
Di Caterina said that they had
a diffi cult time getting supplies at
the beginning of the pandemic
because everything was closed.
“We had to reach out to some
vendors in diff erent states to get
the food delivered to us because
people were hungry. When
everything shut down, it was
really bad,” he said.
Pre-COVID, people congregated
in the oversized dining
room to eat their meal from the
soup kitchen. Since March 2020,
they have to pick up their soup
from one of the tables outside
the Salvation Army, adhering to
COVID-19 safety regulations.
Th e soup of the day, a freshly
prepared turkey soup, was paired
with 180 chicken and steak burritos,
guacamole and salad donated
by Chipotle. Di Caterina
pointed out that the group of
people seeking food assistance
has become more diverse since
the pandemic started.
“Asians, people from India,
Bangladesh. It’s very diverse, people
that we haven’t seen before,”
he explained, attributing the
change to the staggering number
of job losses in the community.
Di Caterina feels that the situation
will improve little by little
now that three diff erent COVID-
19 vaccinations are available, but
the road to recovery will be long.
“Many people lost their jobs.
And it’s going to be hard for everyone
to get back to their jobs. A lot
of businesses closed,” he said.
As New York City marked
one year since its fi rst known
COVID-19 case on March 1,
2020, the Salvation Army of
Greater New York has served
more than 7 million meals to
food-insecure New Yorkers since
the outbreak of the pandemic.
In comparison, the organization
served 3.5 million meals in all
Photo by Gabriele Holtermann
The Salvation Army Queens Temple Corps Community Center hosted a food giveaway in Jackson Heights.
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