Empty stomach, empty heart - JuniperCivic.com
Serving Middle Village and Maspeth since 1938.

Originally published in the September 2018 Juniper Berry Magazine

Empty stomach, empty heart

The reasons for homelessness are as varied as the people involved. No two stories of how people get to rock bottom are the same, but according to the Coalition of the Homeless, 70% of the homeless population in New York City are family units, and 40% of individuals are children.

On top of the homeless epidemic that has been sweeping the nation in recent years, 1 in 7 people in America experience hunger on a regular basis. For some children the free lunch they receive at school is their only meal of the day. In one of the wealthiest cities in one of the wealthiest countries in the world, to have millions of homeless and starving children is unacceptable.

Free food is no small thing to the millions of New Yorkers who are struggling to survive, so providing meals is absolutely a preventative method against homelessness. Too many people in this City are having to decide between putting food on their tables or paying for the roof over their heads.

A study in 2016 by the Association for Neighborhood & Housing Development showed that Woodside/Sunnyside is one of most at risk neighborhoods in Queens. Many households there lack enough savings to sustain them in case of sudden job loss, medical issues, or an emergency. As recently as this past winter, several homeless were reported to have died on the streets in Woodside. This is a human rights issue. No one—regardless of how they got there—deserves to die on the streets, or suffer from hunger and malnutrition.

There are many causes and reasons for homelessness I share in my comprehensive novel on homelessness, Our Invisible Neighbors. I interviewed elected officials, and share personal stories of homelessness, including an account from a formerly homeless lady in Middle Village, and offer solutions for homelessness, domestic violence, and poverty. Through Community Board 5 Queens and

the media, enough donations were given to get one elderly woman back on her feet. The community rallied together beautifully to better the life of one struggling neighbor. Every single one of us has the power to make a difference, one person at a time. And when a community works together, lives are changed.

While 50 million Americans are in poverty, 126 billion pounds of good food goes to waste in this country every year. But there is hope. Through my 501c3 nonprofit, Catering for the Homeless, I am working to utilize that food waste and distribute it to the homeless and food insecure. There is literally enough food going to waste in our City that no one needs to go hungry.

So far, my organization has provided over 15,000 meals to the less fortunate throughout NYC, by utilizing food waste from the Jacob C. Javits Center, entertainment studios, some smaller caterers, and Fordham University events through Lincoln Center. I've collected 6,000 toiletry items that were donated to the homeless in shelters throughout Queens and Brooklyn in 2017.

My next toiletry drive will be from September 1st through October 15th 2018. For a list of items requested for the toiletry drive or to get involved, please visit my website at cateringforthehomeless.com or email me at cateringforthehomeless@gmail.com. I invite the participation of elected officials, churches, individuals, and the Juniper Park Civic Association.

Good Samaritan laws protect this type of food distribution, and there's a tax write-off for participants which can be found on my website. I am inviting all restaurants, catering companies, schools, or any organization with food waste, as well as churches and other homeless nonprofits, to open their hearts and take a little extra time to partner with me to get their perfectly good leftovers into the hungry stomach of a child or adult, instead of throwing them away.

September 2018 Juniper Berry Magazine

September 2018 Table of Contents