Grassroots groups from Queens stepped up and saved jobs during the pandemic while fighting food insecurity. Now they are getting national attention.
Nonprofit Queens Together has a program called the “Plate It Forward” initiative. The concept is simple but profound: pay local restaurants to feed families in need in their neighborhoods. Now it could become a recipe to fight hunger not just here in Queens but all across the country.
Congressman Jim McGovern from Massachusetts, the co-chair of the House Hunger Caucus, visited several Astoria restaurants. McGovern recognized the dozens of Queens restaurants helping feed their community during COVID. He noted it as an example of what could be done nationwide to fight hunger.
The man behind the movement is Jonathon Forgash, the founder of Queens Together.
His group created a critical connection between over 50 queens restaurants that needed money to survive, while feeding over 275,000 people during covid using social media.
“We started raising money online and got hundreds of thousands of dollars individual donations. So we started paying restaurants to feed their neighbors,” said Forgash.
McGovern is hoping to urge Congress and the Biden administration to invest more money into programs like this one to fight hunger across the country.
“One of the reasons I’m here is I’ve been trying to get President Biden to do a conference on hunger. We have traveled around the country and I wanted to come here,” said McGovern.
The essence of the initiative is neighbors feeding neighbors with a laser focus on community and serving culturally sensitive meals, organizers said.
“We are our neighbors keepers; that’s really important to us.,” said Beatice Ajaero, owner of Nneji restaurent. “We are grateful to share those model across the country to support restaurants, restaurant workers, and families alike.”
McGovern has also called for a White House hunger conference along with the United Nations to help end hunger by 2030.