February 13, 2014
By Luis Gronda
A Rego Park food pantry is giving people the choice to decide what food they want for their families.
Last week, the Rego Park Masbia food pantry, located at 98-08 Queens Blvd., introduced a new system that allows residents to choose what they take home as opposed to just giving them a pile of food.
It is a points system determined by food’s weight. You get 36 points in total to spend on whatever food you would like. The choices are divided up into three categories: fruits and vegetables, grains and protein and meat.
Each category has about three or four different options to choose from. For fruits and vegetables, you get 18 points to spend on carrots, onions, potatoes and apple sauce. Six points are allotted for rice, spaghetti, penne pasta and rotini pasta. Finally, you get 12 points to spend on either beans or canned salmon.
Potatoes cost the most points, 10 in total, with both beans and onions costing four points.
Beau Heyen, chief development officer of the Masbia Soup Kitchen Network, said there are several reasons for switching to the new method.
One is to cut down on the lines at their food pantries including its Rego Park location. Heyen said the old system would cause lines going out the door, forcing people to wait outside in the cold or the heat.
A bigger reason for the switch is the farm bill, which was passed by the U.S Senate and the House of Representatives two weeks ago.
The bill, which reforms programs within the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, will bring more cuts to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
Heyen said that while there are some benefits to the bill, including bringing more attention to kosher and halal food, the bill could force more people to go to food pantries if there are less food stamps available. The switch to this method is preparing for that possibility.
“Our hope is that our new model will allow individuals and families to not only get the food they need but to also get food they will use, resulting in less waste and increasing the number of people we can help,” Heyen said.
Yvonne Samuels, a St. Albans resident, approved of their new system, saying it prevents people from taking food they may not necessarily need every week.
“This is quite helpful,” she said.
Samuels added she is on a fixed income and needs to go to food pantries like the Masbia location to feed her household.
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