In the spring of 2020, the coronavirus forever altered our city as we know it. Habitat NYC wasn’t spared – due to safety concerns, we closed our office, volunteer construction sites and our Queens ReStore. Our staff worked from home, keeping projects moving, offering assistance to our Homeowners and Homebuyers and advocating for housing stability on a federal level; but the two box trucks which normally drive across the city picking up donations to our ReStore were stuck in park.
We couldn’t stand by and let our trucks sit idle – so we put them to work on a new mission: feeding hungry New Yorkers.
As part of Habitat for Humanity New York City’s COVID-19-related Emergency Housing Response Fund, Habitat NYC partnered with the Queens-based Hungry Monk Rescue Truck. The partnership began as a referral from a long-time ReStore volunteer, himself a pastor who runs a food pantry.
For the past two years, the Hungry Monk Rescue Truck has provided those in need with meals every Saturday in Ridgewood, Queens. As the COVID-19 pandemic destabilized families across the city, the need for an organization like Hungry Monk increased exponentially. Hungry Monk staff and volunteers jumped into action, increasing their impact from serving 200 meals a week to 1,500. They expanded their service into an emergency food pantry, which operates on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday mornings.
Habitat NYC offered the services of our two ReStore delivery trucks and two of our staff drivers, Sean and Antonio. Sean and Antonio’s hard work expanded Hungry Monk’s service from 1,500 people a week to more than 5,000 people a week during the 11-week partnership. Sean and Antonio picked up food from grocery stores, including Whole Foods and Wegmans, and businesses, like Resorts World Casino, local restaurants and the Javits Center. Even the New York Mets have donated thousands of pounds of food.
Father Mike Lopez of All Saints Church is the founder of Hungry Monk. Father Mike was a monk at one time, then a paramedic for several years. “Working with the Habitat for Humanity team was an absolute honor,” he said. “The hard work and dedication of the [Habitat NYC ReStore drivers], Sean and Antonio, allowed us to increase our food outreach five-fold. There is no question that the Habitat team made a major impact during our expanded COVID-19 relief effort.”
Once they picked up the food – groceries, read-made meals, even whole pallets of produce! – Sean and Antonio took it to the Hungry Monk headquarters to be sorted into bags or meals and handed out to those who come to the pantry, or delivered to other community food pantries and shelters. They even delivered groceries to Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s office, whose staff distributed them throughout her district. Our drivers delivered 2,335 bags and boxes of food to partner organizations, enough for more than 84,000 meals.
Sean and Antonio also delivered groceries to home-bound seniors of COVID-19 discharge patients in 303 homes (167 in Queens, 83 in Brooklyn, 51 in the Bronx and 2 in Manhattan). These deliveries consisted of enough groceries to create nearly 11,000 meals. And they delivered another 2,490 ready-made meals to organizations and hospitals, 930 of which were to frontline workers at hospitals around the city. Did we mention that the trucks are all-electric, provided by the New York State Attorney General’s office? That means that all those miles didn’t add a bit of pollution to our air.
Overall, Sean and Antonio delivered enough food for approximately 100,000 meals.
During this unprecedented crisis, we all must lend a hand when and however we can. We are proud to be part of a new mission: feeding our neighbors in need.
You can help support our work as we help New Yorkers recover from the COVID-19 housing crisis by making a donation, or, if that isn’t possible for you, share this story.