Veggies $10 a bag at Queensbridge

City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (r.) hands out slices of cantaloupe to Queensbridge residents. Residents can buy fresh fruits and vegetables through the Food Box program for $10 a week. Photo by Yinghao Luo
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Residents of Queensbridge will now be able to purchase bags of fruits and vegetables for $10 a week, thanks to a program run by GrowNYC and funded by City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside).

“It’s just providing access to high-quality, fresh and organic produce at probably the best prices you’d find in the city,” said Marcel Van Ooyen, executive director of GrowNYC.

Van Bramer secured $10,000 in discretionary funding for the Queensbridge Food Box. GrowNYC has established the program elsewhere in the city, but this is the first Food Box in Queens.

Run out of the Jacob Riis Settlement House, at 10-25 41st Ave. in Queensbridge, residents who participate must pay $10 for a bag of fruits and vegetables, which varies by the week and season. The next week, they receive their bag and can sign up for another. The program will run through November.

Van Ooyen said the food comes from Green Pasture Farms in Starrucca, Pa.

“This is the same stuff you’ll find in the Union Square Greenmarket,” Van Ooyen said.

While the program had only run for a short period of time when Van Bramer announced it last Thursday, the food box had received 31 orders last week.

Queensbridge resident Lyndell Williams, 62, said she planned to use the vegetables with those from the Settlement House’s community garden.

“I enjoy it. I’m being introduced to arugula, so I get a chance to try new things,” Williams said.

The leafy vegetable had been in the bags the previous week.

Bill Newlin, executive director for the Settlement House, said there are few places to buy fresh food in Queensbridge, which is on the dividing line between Astoria and Long Island City near the entrance to the Queensborough Bridge.

“You can get a lot of fast food,” Newlin said.

He said it took him two weeks to finish his first bag of vegetables, however, and he encouraged other Queensbridge residents to sign up.

Van Bramer bought a bag for the week, which included kale, spinach, chives, green beans, a cabbage, a tomato, plumb tomatoes, baby cucumbers, peaches and a cantaloupe.

“I’m going to eat very healthy this week and so will everybody else who signs up for the program,” the councilman said.

Van Ooyen said the Settlement House had been a great partner in promoting the Queensbridge Food Box.

“I think it’s going to continue to grow and get better,” he said.

Van Bramer said if the program is successful, he will use his discretionary funding for it again next year.

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4564.

Posted 2:28 am, September 6, 2012
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