Sept. 24, 2020 By Allie Griffin
A Flushing-based food pantry has suddenly lost its funding at a time when more New Yorkers are going hungry amid the pandemic and subsequent shutdown.
La Jornada, which has distributed food to Queens residents for 12 years, recently lost its federal grant from a coronavirus food assistance program, U.S. Reps. Grace Meng and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said Thursday.
“Not having access to these funds would have a devastating impact on so many in our borough who depend on the services that La Jornada and others provide, particularly during the COVID-19 crisis,” Meng said.
La Jornada isn’t the only emergency food provider hit either. Other local food organizations in both Queens and the Bronx have also lost their funding, the lawmakers said.
Outrageous 2 hear that La Jornada’s funding has been cut – and now hearing from other local pantries facing the same news. Cutting food assistance programs when millions of families are going hungry during a nat’l health crisis is cruel. I want answers from @USDA. @CatalinaCruzNY
— Grace Meng (@RepGraceMeng) September 23, 2020
The Congresswomen are joined by other Queens electeds who decried the loss of much-needed funding, such as Queens Assemblymember Catalina Cruz and Acting Borough President Sharon Lee.
They said the loss of support for the nonprofits that feed the hungry comes as lines for food pantries in the borough wrap several blocks.
“In a community that was already experiencing food insecurity prior to COVID-19, we saw the need skyrocket as thousands of our neighbors lost their jobs after the state shutdown,” Cruz said. “Food banks, such as La Jornada’s, have been critical in ensuring the survival of our community during the pandemic.”
Nearly a third of food pantries and kitchens in the city said the number of visitors they feed doubled in April from months before the pandemic hit the city, according to survey by the Food Bank for New York City. Of those that saw an increase, more than 90 percent said they saw an increase in new faces.
Meng and Ocasio-Cortez are working to assist the food assistance organizations that are experiencing a sudden loss of funding. They are also in contact with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), which is responsible for administering the coronavirus food assistance grant program that La Jornada and other food pantries rely on.
“I am deeply concerned about impacts on their funding and we are looking into whether their contracts with vendors are ending, and whether they have been provided with information on how to renew them,” Meng said.
Ocasio-Cortez said she and Meng will do all they can to find a solution for La Jornada and others in the same situation, but added that the country should not be in situation that relies so heavily on non-profits to feed communities.
She said the House passed a bill that would help those hungry because of job loss and economic strain due to COVID-19, but the Republican-controlled Senate has refused to vote on the measures.
“The House has passed a bill that would provide financial and nutritional relief to those in our districts facing hunger and other economic challenges due to COVID-19,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “The Republican Senate’s refusal to allow a vote on these measures is appalling.”
Those in need of food assistance can call 311 and ask for “emergency food assistance” to get a list of food banks and resources.
Meng said she fought hard in Congress to ensure the grant program would support those facing food insecurity and be fully funded. The leaders have reached out to the USDA about the sudden withdrawal of funding.
“As the pandemic continues to force families to endure financial hardships, we must make sure that nobody goes hungry, and that all New Yorkers have access to food,” she said.