Queens Groups Join Forces to Tackle Food Insecurity

By Leader Observer Staff | news@queensledger.com

Three Queens based organizations are joining forces to help alleviate food insecurity through grocery deliveries to families. 

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, the rate of food insecurity among children in Queens is double the national average, 10 percent nationwide and 21 percent in Queens. Food insecurity comes in various forms, but it often presents as disorganized eating patterns due to lack of funds or resources. 

Zara Charitable Foundation partnered with Mannan Supermarkets and the Gaton Foundation of Richmond Hill to increase their impact through collaboration. Since March 1, the group has been providing fresh and culturally relevant food deliveries to families in Queens. They plan to continue the effort for 12 months, which will help over 200 families in the process. 

Their initiative was started simultaneously with President Biden’s “White House Challenge to End Hunger and Build Healthy Communities” which seeks to end hunger and diet related diseases by 2030 by addressing existing disparities. 

Several studies found that food insecurity can be especially detrimental to children by affecting their memory, test scores, behavior and attention spans. While the city provides free breakfast and lunch to the 1.1 million children in the public school system, not all children may have access to regular meals when they go home. 

“Zara believes that community entities can be the recipe to help Queens families make ends meet, while helping students access nutrition to improve health and education outcomes,” according to their published report. “Queens students, particularly students of color, are disproportionately affected. As a result, families must worry about not only performance in school and at work, but also about where their next meal will come from.”

Mannan Supermarkets has locations in Jackson Heights, Jamaica and Ozone Park where local residents can purchase halal food products. Through the initiative, Zara is underwriting the cost of twelve months of fresh groceries that Mannan will provide for families in Richmond Hill that are being served by the Gatton Foundation. 

The Gaton Foundation is hosted by Richmond Hill High School, and is made up of current faculty and alums. According to the woman founded and led group, they serve over 350 families every month through four resource partners and over one hundred volunteers. 

Gatton’s Give&Go Grocery Project is partnered with Revel, the electric rideshare company to facilitate emissions-free grocery deliveries to those in need. They also work with the Salvation Army and Commonpoint Queens, a community based organization that hosts a range of programs for children and families. 

A 2022 survey conducted in New York found that food insecure households will regularly make financial trade offs related to food such as stretching food, eating less, buying cheaper or generic groceries, delaying or forgoing other necessary expenses and borrowing money or using credit cards in order to feed their families. 

The study also found that food-insecure New Yorkers are twice as likely to have unsatisfactory health and may delay or skip medical care. 

While various food assistance programs exist on the federal, state and local level, not all food insecure New Yorkers are eligible due to tight requirements. The average monthly SNAP payment is also $121, which is not sufficient in an area where cost of living is high such as NYC. 

“Working collectively, a brighter spotlight can be shined on this critical topic, bringing new community partners and resources together to fight hunger, improve educational outcomes for students while strengthen community health and helping local families thrive,” according to Zara’s Foundation report. 

Happy Birthday: Woodhaven Turns 188

Woodhaven’s Permanent Residents. The Wyckoff-Snedicker cemetery on 96th Street in Woodhaven, behind All Saints Episcopal Church, where many of Woodhaven earliest settlers were laid to rest.

By Ed Wendell | news@queensledger.com

This week, we will celebrate this great nation’s birthday. Let’s hope that your Fourth of July is full of good food and fun times with friends and neighbors. But did you know that this week also marks another birthday? One that’s a little closer to home.

For it was on July 1st, 1935 that the first papers were filed and the first piece of land was purchased in the Village of Woodville, which would later be renamed to Woodhaven. And so, while the rest of the nation celebrates America’s 247th birthday, closer to home we can also celebrate our own 188th birthday.

Can you imagine? Woodhaven is 12 years away from its bicentennial. We’d better start planning!

The area was well developed already by 1835, particularly around the Union Course Race Track. But the rest of Woodville was wide open. Before John R. Pitkin founded the Village of Woodville, this land was part of one giant farm, owned by Stephen Lott.

The Lott family was very prominent in our community’s early history, and many of them never left town, as they are resting peacefully in the northeast corner of the Wyckoff-Snedeker Cemetery on 96th Street, behind All Saints Church.

The community retained the name Woodville until the 1850s when, due to the growth in population, villagers applied for its own Post Office. However, this application was rejected due to the fact that there was already a Post Office for a Woodville in New York, some 325 miles north of here.

And so, we were forced to come up with a new name for our community. For a while, Edgewood was a popular suggestion for a new name. But John R. Pitkin suggested Woodhaven, and seeing as how he had gotten the whole thing off the ground, his opinion held a lot more sway.

John R. Pitkin left home at the age of 12 to seek his fortune and ended up establishing the neighborhood of Woodville on July 1st, 1835. Woodville would eventually be renamed Woodhaven and it celebrates its 188th birthday this month.

And so, in 1853, the Village of Woodhaven was officially established meaning that, if you want to get really technical, this year marks the 170th birthday or anniversary of the name Woodhaven.

Keep in mind that the map of Woodhaven back then was quite different than it is today. The village used to stretch far south, deep into what is known today as Ozone Park. Back in those days, the village of Woodhaven was partitioned into several sections, with names such as Columbia Park (near 91st Street and Jamaica) Eldert Park (near Eldert Lane), Equity Park (near PS 60 – in fact, the playground on 88th Avenue still retains that name).

These names were created for a few reasons, but mainly they were designed by real estate agents to help sell properties in this growing community. And one of the small sections of Woodhaven was a four-block parcel called Ozone Park.

Legend has it that the name Ozone was chosen to reflect the fresh breezes and healthy air that residents could expect to breathe in off the nearby water. And the name of Ozone Park may have faded into obscurity had it not been for the fact that the Long Island Railroad set up a station with that name on Broadway (now 101st Avenue).

Over time, as the section names faded, the name of Ozone Park remained and, in time, became a full community in its own right. So, not only is it Woodhaven’s birthday, it’s really Ozone Park’s birthday as well. We have a shared history, these two communities, so we might as well celebrate together.

The big celebration lays ahead, the bicentennial in 2035. Back in 1935, Woodhaven had a giant celebration. The highlight of Woodhaven’s Centennial was a procession from Dexter Court to the Willard Theater on 96th Street (later the Cordon Bleu and today the Woodhaven Manor).

Residents carried a gigantic cake down Jamaica Avenue and into the theater, which accommodated close to 3,000 people. On this night, according to news clippings at the time, the theater was overflowing with residents, with crowds waiting in the streets to get inside. During the celebration inside the Willard, a celebratory telegram from Mae West was read aloud to cheers from one and all.

And so, as you enjoy your hot dogs and your parties, please remind your friends and neighbors that it’s not just America’s birthday they are celebrating, they are celebrating our birthday as well.

Happy birthday Woodhaven and Ozone Park!

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