Diocesan News

Inflation Sparks The Need For CCBQ’s Food Distribution Events

Nick Sidoti of E-J Electric Company delivers eggs at the CCBQ food distribution and wellness clinic July 7 at St. Michael’s Parish in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. (Photos: Bill Miller)

SUNSET PARK — In the first week of July, the average price for a dozen eggs in the U.S. was $2.84 — about $1.17 more than a year ago, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

But, despite rising inflation, cartons of eggs were free July 7 at St. Michael’s Parish in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, at a “Live it Up: Get Healthy, Live Well” food distribution.

Catholic Charities of Brooklyn and Queens (CCBQ) conducts the distributions with volunteers from E-J Electric Company and the New York City & Vicinity District Council of Carpenters.

People from surrounding neighborhoods lined up outside the parish’s parking lot to get more than just eggs.

Their shopping bags and carts brimmed with fresh spinach, onions, beets, and various lettuces; also peanut butter, jugs of apple juice, and packages of rice.

It was Carmen Valenzuela’s first visit to a CCBQ food distribution, and the mother of four was grateful for the help.

Sunset Park residents came away with food, health screenings, and smiles during the “Live it Up: Get Healthy, Live Well” event, July 7, at St. Michael’s Parish. Catholic Charities of Brooklyn and Queens holds these events three times each month throughout the Diocese of Brooklyn.

“It’s good,” she said, smiling broadly. “People are needing food. It’s too expensive now.”

She shared a shopping cart with her friend, Ada Boito. The women happily showed off their spinach, eggs, and other food items. Both said they knew other families in Sunset Park who are without enough to eat.

“Some people can’t handle the prices,” Boito lamented. “Everything is going high, high, high. Everything!”

And neighbors struggling to feed their families got more than vegetables and protein at the food distribution.

“Since Day 1 of the pandemic, we’ve been out doing these ‘pop-up’ food distributions, and we have not stopped,” said Debbie Hampson, CCBQ’s senior director of community health & wellness services.

“But, we have morphed into these ‘Live it Up’ health and wellness fairs,” she continued. “We’re not only giving out food, but also other resources.”

Included are dental and blood-pressure screenings, plus information tables with representatives from Empire BlueCross BlueShield insurance, NYU Langone Health, Catholic Migration Services, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps).

Msgr. Alfred LoPinto, CCBQ’s chief executive officer, said these services are wide-ranging because they have to be.

“It’s about being as comprehensive as possible in covering the breadth of what people need to deal with on a day-to-day basis,” Msgr. LoPinto said. “But it really is an opportunity for the people to see how the Church is concerned for them in these difficult times.

“Last year it was COVID. Now it’s the inflation that is wiping them out,” he said. “You’re always going to have recessions, and some levels of inflation, but having all of these things at the same time is like living in the perfect storm.”

Carpenter Sinade Wadsworth, a member of New York City & Vicinity District Council of Carpenters, hands out produce during the food distribution and wellness clinic sponsored by CCBQ.

Rommel Reyes knows well the weight of a multi-pronged crisis. Someone recently stole his wallet which held his “green card,” Social Security card, and other forms of identification.

Without those documents, the metalworker from Honduras had no way to buy food, and couldn’t even apply for a new job. On Thursday, CCBQ workers counseled him on how to get duplicate cards.

“Thank God,” he said. “I’m 65 and I want to retire, but I also want to work part-time. So I really need my IDs.”

Hampson said the July 7 distribution would serve about 400 people, including deliveries of food bags to 75 homebound members of St. Michael’s Parish.

“We do this about three times a month,” she said. “We change it back and forth between parishes in Brooklyn and Queens.”

A handbill shows promotes services available at the thrice-monthly food distributions and health screens.

And volunteers from E-J Electric and the carpenters union are at each distribution site.

Brian Lang, superintendent of E-J’s roadway operations, said the commitment was sealed the first time the company’s workers helped out at a food distribution event in the early days of the pandemic.

“We showed up and there were almost 3,000 people who got in line the night before,” Lang said. “We knew right then that we couldn’t be ‘one-and-done’ — that we had to stay the course. Over two years later, we’re still here.”

Joe Reilly, a council representative for the union, said the carpenters keep volunteering because of the people who are served.

“You see them come in, and they look dejected, really downtrodden,” Reilly said. “And then you see them leaving with baskets full of food — enough for a week to feed their kids. The look completely changes. Now they’re smiling.

“Just to see them beaming like that, makes me happy to have been part of something bigger than myself.”

Here is a schedule for the Live it Up events for the rest of July and August:

  • Tuesday, July 19, Noon-3 p.m., St. Athanasius Church, 2154 61st St., Bensonhurst, Brooklyn
  • Monday, July 25, Noon-3 p.m., Sacred Heart Church, 115-50 221st St., Jamaica, Queens
  • Friday, Aug. 5, 10 a.m.-1 p.m. (Kids Fun Day!), Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Astoria, 23-40 Astoria Blvd., Astoria, Queens
  • Thursday, Aug. 18, 10 a.m.-1 p.m., Our Lady of Presentation Church Garden, 278 Rockaway Ave., Ocean Hill-Brownsville, Brooklyn
  • Friday, Aug. 26,  10:30 a.m.-1 p.m., St. Fidelis Church, 123-14 14th Ave., College Point (event entrance on 123rd Street), Queens
  • Thursday, Sept. 1, St. Laurence Church, 12265 Flatlands Ave., Canarsie, Brooklyn

Also, CCBQ has a network of food pantries that provide assistance to many families and individuals in need throughout Brooklyn and Queens. Click here to see a comprehensive list.