September 25, 2014
By Alex Robinson
City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito (D-Manhattan) came to Rego Park Tuesday evening to tour a Masbia Soup Kitchen, which provided more than 500 families with food packages the day before Rosh Hashana, the Jewish new year.
Mark-Viverito was joined by Council members Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills), Mark Weprin (D-Oakland Gardens) and Rory Lancman (D-Fresh Meadows), who took turns delivering food to hungry Queensites.
The Masbia Soup Kitchen expected to distribute more than 1,200 food packages and countless kosher meals to families for the holidays from its three locations, two of which are in Brooklyn. The Rego Park site, at 98-08 Queens Blvd., serves a large low-income Bhukarian Jewish population.
“Hunger does not discriminate - and the high cost of kosher food means that many of the Jewish poor face additional hardship,” said Margarette Purvis, president of the Food Bank for New York City.
The facility offers food to the hungry year round and is open Sunday through Thursday. Food packages are given out on Thursdays from 11 a.m. until 8 p.m., except during the holidays, when they are distributed on Tuesdays. The dining area, which serves hot meals, is open from 3 p.m. until 8 p.m.
The packages contain Lepeshka, a Bhukarian Jewish round bread or challah, honey for Rosh Hashana celebrations, vegetables and chicken.
The number of meals and food packages the center gives out keeps growing every year, said Alex Rapaport, the executive director of Masbia, which has been open for just under five years.
“It doesn’t look like poverty and hunger are going away any time soon so help like this is needed,” he said.
Volunteers said a long line for food packages formed earlier in the day for food packages, something Rapaport is hoping to put an end to.
“We want people to eat in dignity,” Rapaport said. “We don’t want people to wait in line for food on the street, but the demand is so overwhelming that we aren’t winning the battle of not having a bread line. There are just so many people that need food.”
The City Council allocated $105,000 to Masbia in fiscal year 2015, including $25,000 from the speaker’s fund, but this only made up a small portion of the nonprofit’s $2 million budget. Government monies account for less than 40 percent of the money the organization needs, with a majority of funding coming from private donations, Rapaport said.
The Council’s funding was part of a larger effort to tackle shortages at the city’s food banks by distributing a total of $1.3 million to soup kitchens, pantries and other organizations that feed those in need. Roughly half of the city’s food banks had to turn away people seeking meals in 2013 because of a lack of resources.
“The Council is proud to sponsor hunger relief organizations such as Masbia across the five boroughs,” Mark-Viverito said. “Masbia plays an especially crucial role in ensuring that all New Yorkers have access to kosher meals, and I think Masbia and my colleagues for their continued dedication to fighting hunger in New York City.”
Mark-Viverito and her colleagues took turns loading onions into food packages and delivering trays to people in the dining room.
“Our mission is to feed everyone,” Rapaport said. “We happen to be kosher, but our mission is to feed all of New York’s hungry.”
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