You are reading

Queens Woman Hopes Coronavirus Will Shine Light on City’s Homeless and Hungry

Crystal Wolfe (Image provided by Crystal Wolfe)

April 10, 2020 By Michael Dorgan

The coronavirus has wreaked havoc across New York City, but one Queens woman hopes the pandemic will shine a light on a crisis that has plagued the city for some time–food insecurity.

Crystal Wolfe, who founded the not-for-profit organization Catering for the Homeless in 2017, has been distributing food to New York City’s homeless and food-insecure populations for years. She wrote a book in 2017, titled Our Invisible Neighbors, that provides personal accounts of New Yorkers who have fallen on hard times.

Wolfe says it is easy to fall into destitution. Many people are living paycheck to paycheck and the statewide shutdown– which has brought mass unemployment– is exposing how vulnerable people are to becoming homeless and without food.

“No human should be living on the streets, to me that’s a human right, but now with the coronavirus, there are more people than ever that are in jeopardy of homelessness and hunger.”

“I hope this will become an eye-opener for people that becoming homeless might not be a fault of themselves and our response should be what can we do to help solve it.“

Wolfe’s non profit tries to tackle the problem by salvaging surplus food from schools, catering companies, restaurants and grocery stores and distributing it to the hungry before it is thrown out. She has formed a network where the food is then sent to.

There is enough food in the country, she notes, to keep everyone food secure and if all the city’s excess food was redistributed in this way, it would go a long way to help solve the hunger crisis.

A homeless person sleeping rough (Jon Tyson, Unsplash)

“Around 133 billion pounds of food goes to waste each year in America, while one in five people in America experience hunger on a regular basis,” she said, citing U.S. Dept. of Agriculture data.

“There is literally enough food being wasted that no one needs to be hungry,” she added.

Her group has provided over 42,000 meals to the city’s homeless and food insecure population, she said. The group has been distributing food through churches and food pantries as well as on the streets and subways. The group has also given out over 16,000 items of clothing to the city’s homeless population.

But Wolfe believes more food can be collected from schools that can be distributed to the needy.

She wants the Department of Education to put pressure on schools to donate their unused food– as permitted by a 2017 law– to charitable organizations. She also wants the agency to provide guidelines to schools that they could follow.

She launched an online petition, which has now garnered 700 signatures, in July as a means to put pressure on the DOE. She also put together a paper petition and has collected more than 350 signatures as of Friday.

Catering for the Homeless has also been running a COVID-19 Crisis Relief Drive, which is collecting and distributing around non-perishable food items and toiletries to the homeless throughout Queens.

The group is also handing out meals and bags of groceries to families in need.

Wolfe said the organization has served thousands of families in the past few weeks and that her non-profit has a GoFundMe account for donations.

She said it is now more important than ever to help those in need.

email the author: [email protected]

One Comment

Click for Comments 

Leave a Comment
Reply to this Comment

All comments are subject to moderation before being posted.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Recent News

Borough president hears from community members on budget needs throughout Queens

During a two-day public hearing on the mayor’s 2024 preliminary budget, Queens Borough President Donovan Richards Jr. listened to testimonies from 14 community board representatives, community stakeholders and members of the public on where the money should be spent in Queens. 

The public hearings were held both in-person and via Zoom on Monday, Jan. 30, and Tuesday, Jan. 31, at Queens Borough Hall. The testimonials will be used to develop the Queens Borough Board’s FY24 preliminary budget priorities in the coming weeks. 

Creep sought for performing ‘lewd act’ in front on M train rider in Ridgewood last month: NYPD

Police from the 104th Precinct and Transit District 33 are looking for a suspect in a public lewdness investigation for an incident on an M train at the Seneca Avenue station last month.

A 31-year-old woman was on board a Queens-bound M train on Sunday, Jan. 22, at around 9:20 p.m., when she was approached by the unknown man who proceeded to perform a lewd act in front of her, according to an NYPD spokesman, who could not provide any details about what the lewd act was.

‘He didn’t deserve to die’: Borough President Richards leads emotional candlelight vigil for Tyre Nichols

Queens Borough President Donovan Richards held a candlelight vigil for Tyre Nichols outside Queens Borough Hall Monday, Jan. 30 after Nichols’ death at the hands of police officers in Memphis, Tenn., made national headlines for the brutality in which the officers beat him.

Almost immediately after news broke about Nichols’ death, the Memphis police officers who beat him to death were fired and charged with murder. The police department released the body cam footage of the fatal beating on Jan. 27, but many people, including some at the vigil, have refused to watch it due to its extremely graphic nature.

BP launches new advisory panel for youth to become civically engaged in the future of Queens

In an effort to get more young people involved in civics, Queens Borough President Donovan Richards has created a new advisory panel known as the Youth and Young Adult Council to introduce the “youngest and fiercest” community advocates to both community service and organization.

Members of the advisory body will advocate concerns through means of community engagement by participating in one of two cohorts. The first will be made up of high school representatives between the ages of 13 and 17, while the second cohort will be comprised of young adults between the ages of 18 and 25.

Raga sworn in as first-ever Filipino American elected to the state Legislature

More than 300 community members attended the historic inauguration of Assemblyman Steven Raga as the first Filipino American elected to office in New York state.

Many who attended the swearing-in event at the Queens Museum in Flushing Meadows Corona Park wore traditional and cultural attire to the event at the building that once housed the General Assembly of the newly formed United Nations from 1946 to 1950 until its current home in Manhattan became available for the world body.

Ridgewood’s 104th Precinct working to ward off illegal motorbikes, abandoned vehicles and more 311 complaints

Illegal parking, blocked driveways and abandoned vehicles are some of the more common issues at almost every community-driven meeting. The Ridgewood, Maspeth, Middle Village and Glendale communities know all too well that these issues constantly plague their quality of life. 

The 104th Precinct recently shared several posts on Twitter involving the confiscation of illegal motorbikes and the towing of multiple abandoned vehicles. The efforts to thwart these recurring quality-of-life issues increased over the last two months, at the same time Deputy Inspector Kevin Coleman, the commanding officer of the 104, took over.

Ridgewood Garden Associates lawsuit claims city DOT failed to negotiate on locations of new Citi Bike stations

Ridgewood Garden Associates Inc., a residential co-op based in Maspeth, is filing a lawsuit against the city’s Department of Transportation (DOT) and Lyft for their alleged lack of negotiation on alternative locations for the installation of Citi Bike stations near their property.

According to Ridgewood Garden Associates Inc.’s president of the board of directors, George Mandato, the organization sent a letter to Councilman Robert Holden in December 2022 requesting a discussion about alternative locations and dates for the DOT’s installation of the bike stations. However, they were unable to get the chance to do so.