LIC pantry loses big donor

Bishop Mitchell Taylor (l.) and City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (r.) greet Anna Williams as she picks up food from the Bread of Life Pantry. Photo by Rebecca Henely
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Bishop Mitchell Taylor thanked City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) for delivering extra food to his pantry near Queensbridge Houses for the holidays at a news conference last week and said major food rescue group City Harvest was no longer serving the center.

“There is a market here that can’t be abandoned,” Taylor said.

The bishop is well-known in the Queensbridge Houses community and throughout Queens both as the founder of the East River Development Alliance, which runs programs to help public housing residents in western Queens break the cycle of poverty, and the pastor of the Center of Hope International Church, which operates the Bread of Life Food Pantry, at 38-49 12th St. near Queensbridge in Long Island City.

For the holiday season, Van Bramer held his third annual food drive and gave the results to both the pantry and the Hour Children Food Pantry, at 13-07 37th Ave. near Ravenswood Houses.

“In a time like this where there is so much sadness and so many things to feel bad about, it’s good to know that people care about their neighbors,” Van Bramer said.

Queensbridge residents who use the pantry were able to pick up a extra complimentary bag of food last Thursday because of Van Bramer’s drive. Taylor said the additional help was greatly appreciated as federal investments in organizations that help the hungry have decreased throughout the years while demand has increased with the ongoing economic crisis.

He said the pantry has also faced a setback since City Harvest, a Manhattan-based organization which operates a warehouse in Long Island City that delivers excess food from multiple sources to shelters across the city, has not been giving to the mid-sized Bread of Life Food Pantry for the past two months. He said the organization has found it more efficient to deliver large amounts of produce to big food pantries that can move them quickly.

A spokeswoman from City Harvest said the organization is enacting a strategic plan to double its food output and deliver 60 million pounds of food a year by 2016. She said Queensbridge residents have access to three nearby emergency food programs, the closest of which is half a mile away, and that Queensbridge residents also have access to free produce from the Northwest Queens Mobile Market City Harvest runs a few times a month in Astoria Houses.

“We’ve been very carefully identifying how we can feed the most hungry New Yorkers,” she said.

Dr. Leona Wilkins, assistant coordinator for the pantry, said it is funded through United Way and gets donations from the Food Bank. Bread of Life serves 60 to 75 families a day, and the average age of the person it feeds is around 50 to 60 years old. She said while City Harvest is no longer donating, the pantry has largely been able to maintain what it has been doing and hopes to expand.

“Any extra that we can receive we can also render and give others,” she said.

Taylor said there is an increasing number of individuals who use pantries as a supplement. They may be able to buy food own their own, but the pantries make the difference between their having to choose between buying food or buying medicine.

“Now we’re seeing a new working poor,” he said.

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

Updated 4:41 pm, December 27, 2012
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