Feeding the Hungry in Jackson Heights: Lion’s Share Food Pantry

By Evie McKenna
This article was originally published in the recent Winter 2015 Jackson Heights Beautification Group’s newsletter, Views from the Heights. The entire newsletter is available online at JHBG.org.

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If you thought that all the hungry people you see in the news reside in conflict zones or in the poorest parts of the country, it’s time to tell you about those in need in our very own neighborhood and about the vital work being done by Lion’s Share Food Pantry at St. Marks Episcopal Church.

Food distribution takes place on the second Saturday of each month, during which time Lion’s Share helps feed 80 to 100 families and seniors. Volunteers begin at 8 a.m., assessing how much food has been collected and deciding how to stretch it so that they can serve everyone who will come to the pantry between 10 a.m. and noon that day.

A personal surprise for this writer was seeing the line of people waiting before the doors even opened, and noting how much it resembled historic photographs of Depression era breadlines. Could this be the same Jackson Heights with its fabulous weekly Sunday Farm Market, this time feeding neighbors once each month with this level of food insecurity? Sure, Jackson Heights is a mixed-income neighborhood, but the overwhelming food needs of families and individuals, many of whom are seniors, is something I thought of as happening in the big “elsewhere.”

Seeing the charitable work done at Lion’s Share Food Pantry opened my eyes to the needs right here in Jackson Heights.
The logistics of the project is a challenge that the corps of volunteers cheerily accepts. These people do an impressive job of advising and respecting all the visitors, and they continue to look out for these folks throughout the year. This means, among other collections, a coat drive in the winter, a raffle for turkeys and hams around Thanksgiving, school supplies in September, and clothing swaps occur regularly. There is no storage space at St. Mark’s Church, which means that collections cannot be held for long periods before the materials are distributed.
The pantry’s preferred foods include those that are nonperishable and not in glass jars (the exception is baby food). Even the little toiletries you get at hotels find a great home here. Additionally, baby and adult diapers can be added to the list, along with pet foods. Pets can be a great comfort to people who have so little or live alone, so helping feed pets is important too. When asked about other needs, Jorge Sanchez, another principal volunteer, said, “We need everything! Especially all sizes of resealable plastic bags.” For a list of donation ideas, see the box at the bottom of the next page.

The volunteers even advise on best nutritional choices and how to make food last. Blandina Salvador, a principal volunteer, explained, “Oatmeal goes a lot further than boxed cold cereals, which will be gone in a day or two.” Fresh organic vegetables and surplus fruit from the FarmSpot CSA held two days before might feed 20 families, but what about the others? For some, there simply is no fresh fruit or vegetables to be distributed. It’s a small consolation to know that, at least for the children, NYC public schools mandate that each student get a piece of fresh fruit with lunch.

At this point, with the holidays (and winter) just around the corner, you may be asking, “How can I help?”
Although food donations made on the day of distribution are best, alternate arrangements are possible. Food and/or financial donations are accepted in the church office from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. on weekdays (at the 82nd St. entrance, right inside the front door), and before 9 a.m. the second Saturday of each month.

The pantry is working on applying for nonprofit status. While it does not yet actively solicit financial donations, tax-deductible donations can be made to St. Mark’s Church with a note specifying that the money is for the Lion’s Share Food Pantry. Their treasurer will ensure that 100 percent of such donations are used only for the food pantry, and not for any religious purpose or to support general church function. Checks can be made out to St. Mark’s Church (with Lion’s Share Food Pantry in the memo line) and mailed to 33-50 82nd St., Jackson Heights, NY 11372.

The pantry also accepts online donations through Dwolla and PayPal. PayPal accepts credit cards, and Dwolla facilitates transfers from checking accounts. These apps can be accessed through the church’s website at www.sainmarks.net. Both Dwolla and PayPal options have boxes to leave special instructions or memos to write in that the donation is for the food pantry.
Lion’s Share Food Pantry welcomes volunteers to drop by and help with distributions every second Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon. They can also use volunteers for other tasks, including building a website, translations into Spanish or other languages and writing grant applications. If interested, send an email to foodpantryjh@gmail.com.
Lion’s Share Food Pantry was a recipient of JHBG’s recent 2015 Good Neighbor Award, held this past Sept. 26. JHBG wants to shine a spotlight on this very worthy cause, particularly at this time of year. The Lion’s Share Food Pantry won for its dedicated service to the needs of the poor in Jackson Heights.

Ideas for Lion’s Share Food Pantry
Protein foods: nut butters, canned fish, canned meats, etc. Breakfast foods: oatmeal, cereals, pancake mix, etc. Pastas, rice and pasta sauce

Canned goods: beans, veggies, soup, etc.
Baby food (glass bottles are okay)

Pet food

Coffee, tea and powered milk

Household products:toilet paper, paper towels, garbage bags, dish soap, laundry detergent,

etc.
Condiments: ketchup, mustard, cooking oil, etc. Toiletries: shampoo, conditioner, hand soap, etc. Baby and adult diapers
Plastic bags

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