By Jessica Easthope
Last year, a 15-pound turkey would have cost around a $1/lb. This year, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), it’s closer to a $1.50/lb. – adding to the stress of putting food on the table this holiday. It’s a struggle Jose Gagancuela knows all too well.
“Before you could buy a big grocery order with $100, now $400 doesn’t even fill my refrigerator,” he said.
But Jose and more than 1,000 other people felt some relief, Monday, Nov. 22. Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens sent them home with a turkey and a $100 food voucher to use at any grocery store.
“This help is tremendous for my family,” Jose said. “The increase in prices has really made it hard for us. I thank God for this opportunity.”
This holiday, Catholic Charities has given a Thanksgiving bird to nearly 3,000 people still grappling with pandemic unemployment. Rising food prices has caused an unprecedented need, especially in communities like Corona, Queens.
“It’s really tough for families because food prices have continued to go up, between shipping and all of the things happening because of the pandemic, the need just continues,” said Debbie Hampson, senior director of health and wellness services at Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens.
In Corona, unemployment during the pandemic soared to close to 20 percent. Marlene Sumba says she hasn’t been able to find work since and now the cost of groceries is presenting yet another challenge she’s fighting to overcome.
“It’s very important for me to come get this turkey today. It’s been a really hard time for us during COVID-19, I’ve been out of work,” Marlene said. “My husband still works but $100 is not enough anymore to feed our family. It’s very, very difficult.”
This year, Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens has held 31 pop-up food pantries and served nearly 14,000 families.