By Leon Suseran
As families continue to struggle amidst the uncertainty and economic impact of the Coronavirus pandemic, many food distribution sites have resumed operation.
Many might have thought that, perhaps things would have improved with the start of a new year, even with vaccinations in full force. But the reality is that food insecurity continues to be of major concern for thousands of families, including in the Richmond Hill, Ozone Park, Jamaica communities in Queens.
For example, life for 54-year-old Bronx resident, Daxa Rana, is tough at the moment. She travels with two buses, from the Parkchester section of the Bronx to South Jamaica in Queens each Saturday for food at a local food pop-up site.
On the weekend of January 30-31, as New York saw below freezing temperatures and brutally cold days and nights, the need for food did not decrease. There were persons receiving food at the Deshi Senior Center at 83-10 Rockaway Boulevard in Ozone Park in Saturday the 30th. That distribution is carried out by The Ozone Park Residents Block Association and Cityline Ozone Park Civilian Patrol (COPCP), among other organizations.
Executive Director of COPCP Mohammad Khan said that people deserve to be fed especially during these frigid months.
“Thats what they deserve… There are people debating over food and rent and it is not fair to live in a country such as the USA, in the City of New York where there’s wealth in tremendous amounts, and people here are hungry,” Khan stated.
“Therefore we have to serve the people and we have to give them food… All these wonderful volunteers are here to help us out and to make sure the community is fed, and the people who are hungry do not have to go hungry and that’s what makes this Ozone Park area so amazing — because all these people get no benefit but to serve the community,” he added.
Meanwhile over in South Richmond Hill, there were some other good folks distributing hand sanitzers, masks and more food. Cottage Home Care in collaboration with the Queens Boro President and Deputy Boro President’s office carried out one such activity just by the Smokey Park area on January 30.
Deputy Boro President of Queens Rhonda Binda spoke with The West Indian. She noted that the Boro President’s office is working assiduously every day to get more testing and vaccination sites across the borough as well as more food distribution sites. “We keep on fighting to get more from the city and the state, to make sure that we’re distributing food, PPE and getting the testing to the right communities that haven’t been, from the beginning of the pandemic, left back.”
The elected official noted how battered and affected the South Richmond Hill community has been during the pandemic. “So many people lost jobs, they lost family members, they lost friends and also dealing with the food insecurities. So Richmond Hill is like the heart of the epicenter — so we really have to double down and make sure we’re following our four core rules: wearing your mask, washing your hands, staying home if you’re sick and keeping six feet apart,” Binda said
She encouraged families to take loved one to get tested, “and we’re (at the Boro Hall office) giving out more PPE… You can trust that our Boro President is working very hard to make sure that every community…. gets the word and get the equipment and testing that they need,” she said.
Binda encouraged residents of the neighborhood to make use of the mega vaccination site situated at the Aquaduct Race track as well as the other one at Hillcrest High School. “It was very fast and smooth… You can take the A train and it lets you out right there. The problem is there is a backlog, so we’re getting more and more from the federal government — we see they’re buying more.”
She does see the supply problem being improved vastly in the coming days and weeks.
As of Januay 29, 2021 there have been 1,387,840 first doses of the vaccine received in NY State while 1,316,032 first doses have been administered, according to the Governors office. There have been 244,644 second doses administered as of that date as well.
New York City as of January 30 has vaccinated 742,025 residents.
As for the Farmers to Families program, the Federal Government renewed the program for the fifth time in early January by spending more than $1.5B. In partnership with the US Department of Agriculture, more than 133,000,000 boxes have been distributed across the country since the pandemic began. This fifth round would last until April by which time Congress should pass another Covid-19 relief and spending package to continue feeding hungry communities.