STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — Bushels of rainbow swiss chard, bags of carrots, bunches of parsley and containers of clementines sat atop tables outside of the recently reopened Everything Goes Café, located at 208 Bay St., on Saturday afternoon.
The produce — some of it fresh from Staten Island’s own Snug Harbor and Gerardi’s Farmers Market and some purchased with donations — was distributed during a pop-up produce event organized by Staten Island Therapeutic Gardens.
Saturday’s event was the non-profit’s third pop-up event since the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic hit and exacerbated food injustice on the borough — particularly on the North Shore.
Food justice, or injustice, refers to disparities that exist in food security and access to healthy food. It affects Black and brown communities the hardest, explained Sarah Blas, executive director of Staten Island Therapeutic Gardens, and the goal of the pop-up events is to meet people where they’re at.
“Addressing food justice on Staten Island is so much more than just feeding people; it’s about acknowledging the historical atrocities that are at the root cause of the injustice, connecting resources to community members and creating sustainable solutions in order to eradicate hunger and heal the Staten Island Community,” Blas said.
Scheduled from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., the pop-up pantry had only clementines and a handful of mixed produce left by noon.
At a previous event at La Colmena in Port Richmond, produce was gone in 45 minutes.
On average, the pop-up pantry events have distributed produce and resources to 100 community members and residents.
“This is not just a North Shore issue but one we see across New York City and even worldwide,” Blas said.
Blas and volunteers organized the event and collaborated with Staten Island Women who March (SIWWM), Staten Island Urban Center, Tackling Youth Substance Abuse (TYSA) and Transportation Alternatives in order to assess the communities needs and provide other resources.
“Food Justice is a critical issue that profoundly impacts the lives of women and children. In other words, those most vulnerable to its detrimental effects. Concerning the matter, many people are unfamiliar with terms like ‘food deserts’ and ‘food insecurity.’ SIWWM’s partnership with SITG in this effort has the power to make a real difference one healthy and full belly at a time,” said Karen Lanovoi, spokeswoman for SIWWM.
Information about local food banks, SNAP fact sheets, food security surveys, as well as addiction and mental health resources and voter registration forms were also available to the community.
Meeting people where they are is important, Rose Uscianowski of Transportation Alternatives, said, adding the organization works to close gaps in where and how people are accessing healthy food.
Transportation deserts on Staten Island make it harder for residents to access healthy options like the produce that was distributed during the event.
“If you don’t have a lot of money you’re not going to be able to travel all the way to [a farmers market],” said Roxanne Mustafa, co-director of SIWWM. “What this event does is it fills that need.”
Staten Island Therapeutic Garden’s next event will be held on Sunday, Oct. 18 at H.E.A.L.T.H 4 Youth’s Community Garden, located at 1 Clyde Pl., from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. or while supplies last.
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