Produce Market hosts annual food giveaway

Caroline Aguirre

Young people return from Hunts Point Gives Back with bags of food.

More than 25,000 pounds of fruits and veggies were given out

The Hunts Point Produce Market hosted its second annual “Hunts Point Gives Back” event on Saturday, November 12, distributing 1,700 bags of fresh produce to community members and an additional 300 bags were delivered to City Harvest and to senior centers. Many residents expressed their gratitude for the donations, while the market volunteers were relieved by the turnout this year, which they said was better than last year.

“You want me to be honest? This here is good food,” said Monti Harris, 22. He expressed his disdain for the fast food restaurants in the neighborhood. “I’m tired of buying sandwiches and Chinese food. I want some soul food.”

The merchants at the Hunts Point Produce Market worked with the Community Affairs Unit at the 41st Precinct, area elected officials and the market’s Next Generation Committee in order to put the event together. In total, the 2,000 shopping bags contained more than 25,000 pounds of fresh fruit and vegetables, including baking potatoes, acorn squash, carrots, celery root, ginger, chayote squash, cranberries, garlic, yams, rutabagas, Macintosh apples and tangerines. In addition, each bag contained recipes in preparation for the Thanksgiving holiday.

When the Hunts Point Produce Market introduced this event in 2015, they hosted it at the market itself way down on the peninsula. This year organizers picked the more central location of the Julio Carballo Fields basketball court on Lafayette Avenue.

“This is a far more superior location for the community. As we were setting up the tent, there was already a line around the block at 8:30 a.m.,” said Myra Gordon, executive administrative director of the produce market. The event began at noon and ended at 3 p.m.

“The merchants in the market are happy to give back as long as the food goes to the people who need it,” Gordon said.

Volunteers at the event were also content with the turnout this year. However, they think that more should be done to attract residents. One suggestion included providing entertainment for kids.

“The meat market should also get involved — many residents have been asking where the turkey is,” said Gabriella D’Arrigo, director of marketing for D’Arrigo Bros. Co. of New York, a produce distributor founded by two Sicilian immigrants in 1948.

Rosa Sut, 26, said she and her husband, who works at a car wash, spend about $400 a month on groceries – which is often more than they can afford. She was thankful to go home with a free bag this weekend.

“The food in the supermarkets are very expensive, especially the meat,” said Sut in Spanish. “It also doesn’t help that my husband is on a diet and it is difficult to find good food.”

Although most residents expressed their gratitude for the donation, Patricia Gary, a community advocate and member of Mothers on the Move, wasn’t impressed by the market’s donation.

“I appreciate the gesture but it could be done routinely,” Gary said. “This is just a showing of the face. A lot of people are not eating in this neighborhood. The market has endangered the neighborhood and has caused so much pollution. You never supported the community and you’re located in the community.”

As the event continued and more bags were unloaded from a truck, an NYPD officer urged residents to text their friends and encourage them to come over. Older residents struggled to carry the heavy bags, as they attempted to bring bags for their family members.

“The help they give us is very important,” said one 45-year-old construction worker who spoke in Spanish and asked not to be named. “The food they gave out will help me since I’ve been unemployed for three months.”

Towards the end of the event, organizers began to deliver leftover bags to senior centers in the area, including Erma Cava Senior Center, the Cordova House, and the St. Vincent de Paul Nursing Home.


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