As I’m writing this, the Hungry Monk Rescue Truck is on Day 67 of its volunteer-run COVID-19 emergency relief efforts, and the future of our operation is more uncertain than ever.
Before March, the Hungry Monk Rescue Truck was an important but much smaller neighborhood project. We would rescue modest amounts of food from a handful of distributors, and we would provide groceries or prepared meals to a few hundred food insecure neighbors on Saturday mornings. The coronavirus pandemic changed all of this. Now each day is a melee of new and old volunteers loading and unloading trailer trucks, sorting through thousands of pounds of food, preparing pantry bags, making dozens of phone calls, mapping out delivery routes that span the entire city, acquiring clothes and toiletries, directing those in need to whatever resources we’re unable to provide, and much more.
We were able to do this by exhausting our annual pantry budget in less than a month, receiving generous donations from restaurants who suddenly found themselves with a glut of perishable food, and witnessing an unprecedented amount of support from those in the community who were already aware of our work. We were also able to fundraise a significant amount of money with the help of a few prominent activists and politicians, but we’ve now found ourselves only a month later with an empty pantry and hardly any of these funds remaining.
We’ve been distributing food through the church that serves as our home base and a nearby social center that serves as a satellite location five days a week since the beginning of the pandemic. As the financial consequences of the pandemic are now being felt most acutely, the amount of people at every distribution is increasing dramatically. Last Saturday alone we fed over 1,250 families at our two distributions in addition to the day’s deliveries.
The Hungry Monk Rescue Truck has always been a somewhat scrappy organization with a small core of volunteers and very little bureaucracy, and this has both helped and hindered us in our ability to respond to a crisis of this magnitude. As we continue to make new connections all over the city and learn more about what works best, we hope to rely less if not at all on individual donations and private fundraising campaigns. But the reality of the situation is that in the face of this crisis, we simply need more funds immediately.
We anticipate this peak in food insecurity lasting for at least another two months, and we hope that we won’t have to abruptly stop the vital work we’re doing because our pantry shelves remain empty. While we still rescue thousands of pounds of produce, bread, and prepared meals each week, the influx of this food is inconsistent, and we need an even greater amount of purchased dry pantry goods to continue our project at its current scale. Beyond the pantry goods, there are also hundreds of dollars of ancillary expenses we have each week, and we hope to get a new truck and greater refrigeration access in the short-term.
We need all those who are in a financial position to do so to come together and support their neighbors. Your love and generosity are needed more than ever. Help us help those most in need during this horrible pandemic.
In addition to hundreds of home deliveries and the distributions at our home base of Covenant Lutheran Church in Ridgewood, we regularly provide food to the following locations:1882 Woodbine (Local satellite)
The Rock Church (Elmhurst)
Our Lady of Mount Carmel (Astoria)
Lower East Side Mutual Aid Network
Bushwick Mutual Aid Network (via Mil Mundos and May Day Space)
Bedford-Stuyvesant Family Health Center
Cooper Park Houses
Throggs Neck Houses
Affiliated bed programs for those experiencing homelessness including Ridgewood Abbey, Elmhurst Abbey, and St. James Abbey
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