By Jessica Easthope
This Thanksgiving tens of millions of Americans will go hungry and the pandemic has only made it harder to feed those in need, just ask Crystal Wolfe, the founder of Catering for the Homeless.
“I just can’t stand seeing the suffering and there’s a growing need there’s a growing homelessness crisis and a growing hunger crisis, and it’s not getting any better with the coronavirus,” she explained. “It got astronomically worse. It’s worse than the days of the great depression.”
Crystal’s mission is to end hunger with the 133 billion pounds of food excess in the United States every year.
“There’s literally enough food going to waste that no one needs to be hungry,” Crystal said.
The COVID-19 crisis has motivated Crystal to expand her operation across the country, but in New York City, she partners with more than 100 restaurants, schools, and catering companies, gathering and distributing excess food; one of them is St. Teresa’s in Woodside, Queens.
Norberto Saldana has been in charge of the parish’s food pantry for nearly two decades. During the pandemic, it went from feeding about 100 people a week to 500.
“I see people who used to work and now they’re in the line and we don’t judge but it surprises you when you see all these people,” Norberto said.
Volunteers say it’s a testament to how great the need still is that when the pantry doors open, all 150 packed bags of food are gone in minutes.
Norberto says even those who have jobs are hungry. They come before work and save spots along the street outside the church with plastic bags. The bags show up hours before the people do.
“It’s either spending more money on food and getting food for my children, or pay the rent,” Norberto said. “People have to choose.”
Norberto said the work they do would have been impossible without Crystal’s help.
“Oh my God, it’s not only that she brings the food, she stays with us,” he explained. ‘During the pandemic we didn’t allow people to come in here but she stayed and volunteered and was a big help,” he said.
Crystal says God has called her to take action — she relates to those struggling because she’s been there.
“I’ve gone hungry, I’ve been homeless briefly at different times, and I think it’s such a tragedy for so many people to be suffering when there’s a solution. And I feel called to do something about it,” Crystal said.
Crystal is working to expand her operation to Pennsylvania and Indiana and is accepting donations, food and supplies online at cateringforthehomeless.com.