Javier Castaño/QueensLatino

Latinos line up to collect food in Corona, Queens, New York, an epicenter of Coronavirus.

Read the original story in Spanish at QueensLatino
Translated and condensed by Carlos Rodríguez Martorell

The coronavirus took away many people’s jobs and money. Now, food scarcity is upon the homes of New York’s Latinos.

Carolina Vilchis, a resident of Corona, Queens, has three children and is currently pregnant, and does not have a job. “I have picked up food at the public school, but it is too hard for me to walk that far, so I come here,” she said, as she waited at the Centro Comunitario Andino (Andean Community Center) on Roosevelt Avenue and 100th Street in Corona. The queue of Latino residents waiting to collect food and fruit there extended for two blocks. 

Vilchis had her 9-year-old son Diego Belén with her. Her two other children were in care of her sister-in-law. “We have very little savings left, and I cannot keep spending them on food,” she said.

Walter Sinche, founder of Alianza Ecuatoriana Internacional (International Ecuadoran Alliance) and the Centro Comunitario Andino, shouted through a loudspeaker, reminding people in line to stay six feet away from each other. “We have 250 food packages, and we are prioritizing the elderly and construction workers,” said Sinche. “Parents with children can collect food at public schools.” 

According to the Catholic Charities’ offices in Brooklyn and Queens, they have distributed 20,000 meals in Queens, 40 percent more than in previous years. One day in April, they handed out 8,000 meals, and still not everyone who stood in line was able to get one. 

“In New York, 60 percent of all COVID-19 cases are in Brooklyn and Queens, so we increased our services in those boroughs,” said Adriana Rodríguez, spokeswoman for the diocese. “This pandemic has put everyone’s faith to the test, including that of the 1.5 million Catholics in this diocese. Our churches are closed, and that is why attendance to televised mass has increased tremendously. When this pandemic ends, many more people will return to church to strengthen their faith.”

Catholic Charities has given out more than 100,000 meals in New York City. Although their staff is not working at their offices, it continues to serve people in need remotely by phone or online. 

Local Assemblywoman Catalina Cruz is also dispatching food from her office, located on Junction Boulevard and 41st Avenue in Corona.

“We started out with 300 meals, and now we are distributing more than 2,000 per day. Today, the queue is over five-blocks long. Hunger does not wait or discriminate between people,” said the legislator.

Mayor de Blasio allocated $170 million to feed those in need, including hiring 11,000 taxi drivers to deliver meals to the elderly, people with disabilities and the hungry. The mayor and the New York City Council also announced that they would grant an additional $25 million to non-profit organizations distributing meals across the five boroughs.

City Harvest, for example, uses 400 places to distribute food in this city and 40 percent* have closed due to a shortage of personnel or to avoid infections. 

Several community and entrepreneurial organizations have also come together to help feed the hungry. Some people have been “adopting” one or two families and providing them with goods and even helping them with their rent and utilities payments.

*This portion of the article has been corrected.