By Jessica Easthope
For Catholics around the world, Holy Thursday is synonymous with the Last Supper, but this year, families can’t break bread together, making a soup kitchen so needed.
The soup kitchen at the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary parish in Jamaica, Queens, is a well oiled machine. Balanced meals are prepared, cooked and packed, ready to be given to the thousands of people who have relied on the soup kitchen since the coronavirus pandemic began.
Father Manuel de Jesus Rodriguez says people in this community are in desperate need.
“Last Tuesday we served 130 people who came to take advantage of the food pantry, last Thursday for the food pantry we had 220,” he explained.
The latest data from the New York City Health Department shows hispanics make up 34 percent of the city’s coronavirus deaths, higher than black people, who make up 28 percent and white people who make up 27 percent.
The figures are one part of why the food pantry is an essential resource, especially in an immigrant-rich community like Jamaica.
“What’s happening is since many members of our community are losing their jobs out of this crisis the numbers have increased,” Fr. Manuel said. “We didn’t have too many people from the parish coming to the food pantry and the soup kitchen, and now we have.”
Holy Thursday is when the Eucharist was instituted and every year it’s an important day for Catholics to receive the Body of Christ, but this year they can’t.
The food pantry is a way to let people know God is with them, Fr. Manuel explained.
“The food pantry, the soup kitchen, those are now our charitable Eucharist,” he said. “It’s another way to share and express the same mystery.”
The parish has a soup kitchen every Thursday and a food pantry on the first and third Tuesday of every month, as well as a home delivery service for seniors and the disabled, all in an effort to feed as many people as possible during this crisis.