June 5, 2020 By Michael Dorgan
A large truck packed with fruits and vegetables for the needy rolled into Sunnyside Thursday.
The truck pulled up to an empty retail space on Skillman Avenue at around 2 p.m. and around 60 local volunteers unloaded as many as 1,400 boxes.
The volunteers had set up a human chain from the truck to the storage space and chanted “this is what community looks like,” and sang songs.
The food, which was funded by a USDA grant, is being shared out to several food pantries throughout Queens and Brooklyn over the next few days. The Skillman Avenue site is acting as a distribution hub.
Civic leader Brent O’Leary – along with Jessica Weiss from the non-profit Growing Soul – helped secure the food from a farm in Maryland.
O’Leary, who co-founded the Woodside/Sunnyside Community Covid-19 Relief Group in March, said his group organized and paid for transportation costs. The USDA grant financed all food costs.
The Woodside/Sunnyside group hired a driver to drive a 53-foot long truck to the farm in Maryland. The driver loaded up the truck with the produce and headed back to Sunnyside Thursday morning.
Members of the Woodside/Sunnyside Relief group, various other food pantries and some local community volunteers were on hand to offload the truck.
The 30-pound boxes – which contained strawberries, lettuce, cucumbers, potatoes, and other fresh produce – were loaded the empty storefront at 45-18 Skillman Ave. The space belongs to The Skillman bar that is letting O’Leary’s group store the food there.
O’Leary said that all the produce came assorted inside the boxes and volunteers immediately began handing them out.
“We know they have a short shelf life so we are going to give them all out this week,” he said.
A portion of the produce will head to the Woodside/Sunnyside group, which operates out the Mosaic Church Office at 46-01 43rd Ave. and Woodside on the Move’s offices at 51-23 Queens Blvd.
Members from other food pantries pulled up in vans to take away their quotas.
O’Leary said the local community has rallied together during the COVID-19 pandemic to help residents who are less fortunate.
“This whole operation showed a community taking action and the food will go a long way to helping people during these difficult times,” he added.