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U.S. Reps. Grace Meng (D-NY) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) announced today that they are working to assist Queens food assistance organizations that are experiencing sudden impacts in their funding.

The organizations include La Jornada which for 12 years has worked to distribute food to borough residents. Meng and Ocasio-Cortez were informed that federal grant funding it receives from the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program’s (CFAP) Farmers to Families Food Box initiative has been stopped, and the Congressmembers have subsequently heard the same from other local food assistance groups in the borough, as well as in the Bronx. 

“I have worked closely with La Jornada and many other local food assistance organizations and food pantries, and I’ve seen firsthand the critical assistance that they provide to Queens residents,” said Congresswoman Meng. “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. 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. As part of coronavirus response legislation, I fought to ensure that the Farmers to Families program supported those who are food insecure as a result of COVID-19, and that it was fully funded. 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.”

“Congresswoman Meng and I have been in touch with the USDA and La Jornada and we are committed to doing all we can to remedy the situation,” said Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez. “La Jornada and other area food pantries have been invaluable resources to our districts during this time – but of course we should not be in a situation that so heavily relies on non-profits to provide a lifeline to our communities. 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. The Republican Senate’s refusal to allow a vote on these measures is appalling. We encourage constituents who need food assistance now to call 311 and ask for “emergency food assistance” to access a list of alternative food banks and resources. Language assistance is available.”

“Food insecurity and hunger from the COVID-19 pandemic remain a very real and deep challenge for many in the Borough of Families,” said Acting Queens Borough President Sharon Lee. “Any interruption in food supply for Queens pantries in the middle of this pandemic would be a substantial blow to the growing lines of elders and families with children who rely on these pantries for food. Time is of the essence.” 

“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,” said Assemblywoman Catalina Cruz (D-Queens). “Food banks, such as La Jornada’s, have been critical in ensuring the survival of our community during the pandemic. As we prepare for a resurgence of the epidemic, it is crucial that funding continues so that our community does not have to go hungry.”

The Coronavirus Food Assistance Program’s Farmers to Families Food Box initiative is administered by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Meng and Ocasio-Cortez are in contact with the agency about the problem with area pantries and food assistance organizations.