BY LUIS GRONDA
Thousands of hungry Richmond Hill residents lined up on 89th Avenue looking to get needed food for the Thanksgiving weekend.
The River Fund, a food pantry center on Lefferts Boulevard in Richmond Hill, held its weekly food drive at their headquarters last Saturday. This one was more significant as it was the last one to be held before Thanksgiving. The pantry will be closed for the next three weekends while they gather food for the next drive.
About 30 tons of food was served during the drive, including carrots, onions, potatoes, cereal and much more. Around 1,000 turkeys were also given out in time for a Thanksgiving meal.
A few elected officials were also on hand to help serve food to the needy and bring awareness to food pantries like the River Fund, because federal cuts on these establishments have hampered their abilities to feed those in need. Among the politicians to attend were Queens Borough President-elect Melinda Katz and Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills).
Cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program went into effect earlier this month and will reduce spending on the program by $5 billion in the 2014 fiscal year.
Swami Durga Das, the executive director of the River Fund, said the cuts to the SNAP benefits is just another barrier put in front of people who are hungry and may not be able to afford food on a daily basis.
“When you take a disadvantaged person and you hit them harder, how can that have any kind of positive effect?” he said. “This is going into a City disaster as far as I’m concerned.”
Durga Das added that the two biggest populations to visit the pantry are seniors and children. Especially because of this, he said, they try to offer the healthiest food possible as proper nutrition can be a problem among those two groups of people.
Residents who were at the drive say they need food banks like the River Fund to feed their families.
Howard Keen, a Woodhaven resident, said he goes to food banks because he does not make enough in supplemental security income and in food stamps to afford food every week for him and his wife.
“Whatever I get here helps me greatly,” he said.
Adelaida Rodriguez, who lives in Richmond Hill, said the cuts will have a negative effect on many people who use food banks like the River Fund.
“It would affect not only me, but it would affect pretty much everybody, [that is] cuts for the poor,” Rodriguez said. “The line, this is around the block,” referring to the long lines waiting outside the River Fund.
Reach Luis Gronda at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 127, firstname.lastname@example.org or @luisgronda.