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Flushing-Based Food Pantry to Buy Rice Cookers Thanks to Fundraiser

The food pantry outside the Bland Houses (Photo Courtesy of John Choe)

Feb. 24, 2021 By Christina Santucci

A Flushing food pantry will soon have two new electric rice cookers to prepare food for volunteers — thanks to a GoFundMe drive.

The fundraiser launched Sunday has raised more than $1,000 as of Wednesday morning to replace old equipment at La Jornada’s food pantry in the Bland Houses.

The new rice cookers will be used to mainly prepare meals, which volunteers will pack up and distribute to those in need. Food will also be available for those who visit the location.

“Everybody who is hungry can come and eat lunch,” said the pantry’s founder and executive director Pedro Rodriguez.

The old rice cook (Photo: Courtesy of John Choe)

The organization has about 60 to 80 volunteers on Saturdays — the busiest day — said John Choe, a candidate for the 20th District Council seat, who is one of those volunteers.

He set up the GoFundMe to buy the rice cookers through the Flushing Interfaith Council and Greater Flushing Chamber of Commerce. His goal was to raise $500.

“I’m really happy that so many people stepped up,” he said.

Choe said the rice cookers have already been ordered and are expected to arrive next week. The money raised on top of the $500 goal will be used to buy additional kitchen equipment.

Volunteers at La Jornada have packed and distributed food for about 10,000 families every week since the pandemic began, Rodriguez said.

The organization now has 11 sites in Queens. Most of the pantries serve about 500 families, but the number reaches between 2,000 to 3,000 on Saturdays at the Bland Houses.

Families pick up bags of groceries with nonperishable items — as well as fruits, vegetables and protein. The goal is to provide enough to feed two people for a week and four people for half of a week, Rodriguez.

Choe said that many of the recipients are restaurant workers, who have lost their jobs as a result of the pandemic.

“Some of these people have really fallen through the cracks,” he said.

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