Sunset Park Food Pantry Hangs on by a Thread While Serving More People

Screen Shot 2020-07-01 at 5.13.21 PM

Food insecurity is plaguing communities and food pantries have been a key lifeline to feeding the people most affected across the city, pre-coronavirus and in the current state the city is in.  

The Center for Family Life Food Pantry (CFL), 443 39th Street in Sunset Park, has said it’s often on its last legs without having enough money to buy the essential meals, that prior to the onset of the pandemic, serviced 31 percent of Sunset Park households struggling with food insecurity.

The CFL started a fundraiser for additional monetary support to cover anything that’s not included in their grants, like extra staffing or cleaning services.   

The need for more funding comes as Manhattan layoffs in the restaurant, hotel, retail, and personal care industries have been common, but the actual people with these jobs often live in boroughs like Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx.

The neighborhoods hardest hit economically so far were Elmhurst, Corona, Norwood, Highbridge, Sunset Park, and Flushing, according to an economic impact report. Sunset Park and Windsor Terrace areas ranging in the 24 percent unemployment range. 

Photo Credit: PXFuelstockphoto

Smilie Filomeno, Program Director of the Community Service Program at CFL, said job and income loss is contributing to a dramatic increase in food needs for the community. 

Before, she said, there was an intake process where the three-day grocery supplies would be tailored to each household but the national health emergency necessitated a quicker grab-and-go response. 

“There was already a strong issue with food insecurity,” said Filomeno about New York City in general. “Now after COVID, because a lot of individuals lost in these industries or they themself became ill and could not work–or a family member became very ill with COVID–we were seeing longer and longer lines of individuals coming to pick up food. And the frequency picked up.”

To meet increased demand, the small food pantry team expanded operations from three days a week of grocery supplies to five days a week. They served about 400 meals a month pre-COVID, and now they distribute about 43,200 a month.

The program receives referrals from more than 20 neighborhood churches and human service organizations, as well as from community members themselves. The standard bags of groceries have protein, rice, beans, poultry, and an array of healthy food choices. 

“Before COVID, we used to have it that folks could come every month or two, and now it’s weekly,” said Filomeno, “We don’t turn anyone away.”

City Councilman Carlos Menchaca (D-Red Hook, Sunset Park) couldn’t be reached for comment at post time. Sunset Park Food Pantry 

More from Around New York