Pangs of Doubt Reach Boro’s Hungry.
Food pantries are a primary source of nutrition for many low income Queens residents.
By Joseph Orovic
Since the holiday season, the Macedonia Food Pantry has not received a shipment of food. Relying on good Samaritans and local stores, the pantry’s Food Coordinator Catherine Williams has resorted to rationing her bags of food to emergency cases only.
Meanwhile, seniors all across Queens have seen their Meals-On-Wheels deliveries lose an axle. Some report receiving cold meals that were supposed to be hot, Kosher meals that aren’t Kosher, and lunches that arrive anywhere between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m.
Being hungry in Queens has become much harder, with a cash-strapped City as well as a streamlining of services leaving the poor and elderly wondering if they’ll have a meal.
Macedonia’s problems reflect a greater need around the City. According to Williams, the Food Bank has not provided Macedonia any food since December and the pantry’s budget was cut from $20,000 to $18,000.
As of printing, the Food Bank did not return multiple phone calls. But it has promised a delivery of food in the coming weeks, Williams said.
Still, more than 400 people line up at Macedonia every Wednesday, hoping to leave with a grocery bag of food.
Meanwhile, the Visiting Nurse Service (VNS) has not hit the ground running in its takeover of the Meals-On-Wheels program across the borough.
VNS has reportedly faced a myriad of difficulties, ranging from overstuffed trucks holding upwards of 90 meals per route to delivery mishaps since it took over the program Feb. 2.
According to sources at the Department for the Aging, the contract was given to the organization in an ongoing effort to streamline case management and meal delivery services, creating lower overhead for the program.
It also hopes to prepare for a looming growth in seniors, as the Baby Boom generation approaches retirement.
Some changes have occurred for the 5,000 seniors participating in Meals-On-Wheels. They now have the option of two frozen meals per week, or five hot meals. They also receive three “shelf-stable” meals that require no refrigeration.
VNS’s program mirrors a 2004 effort in the Bronx, which also suffered a few setbacks with its launch, but was given resounding praise in a 2007 survey conducted by KPMG.
But seniors are experiencing the unfamiliar feeling of a meal undelivered.
“They told us they knew what they were doing,” said Naomi Altman, assistant executive director at the Queens Community House. “They made a convincing argument, I gather, to DFTA.”
The case management organization has served as a de-facto back up for VNS in Community Board Districts 2, 4, 5 and 6, making deliveries when necessary.
“The disappointment goes beyond delivery or non-delivery,” Altman said.
Still, Borough President Helen Marshall remains optimistic her elderly constituents will see some stability arise in the near future.
“The Borough President has been warned that it’ll be off to a rough start,” spokesman Dan Andrews said. “But she is confident the problems will be worked out.”
If your Meals-On-Wheels delivery suffers any sort of hiccup, dial 311.