Astoria Food Pantry: Tackles Food Insecurity from the Pandemic & Beyond

Expanding from the back of founder Macaela Sears’ car outside of PS 122, Astoria Food Pantry is now serving nearly 150 families every Friday morning. The idea for this neighbor-to-neighbor pop-up pantry was started after public schools announced their closing due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Feeling the collective panic increase, Sears took action.

“I thought if folks were coming to school to pick up free meals, they’d likely also be in need of grocery items… In less than two hours the trunk of my car had been completely emptied and some of my neighbors went home a little more hopeful,” said Sears.

Though not just a Covid-19 phenomenon, food insecurity affects many families in Astoria and that’s why it is so important to remain aware of the various needs of others. “These are Astoria neighbors, our community, on the sidewalk for hours before sunrise for just two bags of groceries,” said Sears.

In anticipation of the upcoming holidays, Astoria Food Pantry will be partnering with neighborhood leaders to make this Thanksgiving feel special. Co-organizer Catie Fireman and Sears are planning a Pie-A-Thon where they bake as many pies as possible in one day to raise money, awareness, and make homemade pies for the pantry. A list of donations needs, upcoming events, and plans for each family to be served a turkey roast or other centerpiece food will go out on their Instagram. So, keep an eye out for details.

Holidays often bring about extra expenses- large feasts, gifts, and even travel- so celebrating is not always an easy option for families. It brings added financial, social, and mental stress to many, especially those with young children. While many already struggle between whether to pay rent or keep food on the table, now the decisions of how to spend the holiday lingers closer. During this time, often christened “the season of giving,” many charity organizations and volunteer groups spring to action.

However, as Sears states, “Food insecurity exists 365 days a year, but there’s only one time of the year where holidays ask us to pause and think of the needs of others.” She explained how many food-aid organizations, specifically soup kitchens, will receive a flood of volunteers from Thanksgiving through Christmas, then be left short-handed and abandoned come January.

This year-round issue is why Sears is working to keep Astoria Food Pantry going and growing. “Food insecurity can happen to anyone, in any demographic, and it is not a reflection on anyone’s work ethic or moral character, but a failure of our system to care for its citizens,” explained Sears.

You too can support Astoria Food Pantry by signing up to serve, donate goods, or contribute to their GoFundMe, helping to fill the immediate needs of families, while creating long-lasting, sustainable change in the community.