2nd FEC Food Pantry A Success

 2nd FEC Food Pantry A Success

By Dan Guarino

On Saturday morning, April 20, the B.R.I.D.G.E Family Enrichment Center (FEC) on Beach 92nd Street opened its doors for a second successful community food pantry distribution. Under the banner of “Build Relationships, Inspire Development, Growth & Excellence” (BRIDGE), the center officially opened in March of this year. Guided by Director Curtis Turney-Rentas, it offers a variety of free services to families and Rockaway/Broad Channel residents of all ages.

“Today we served 70 families,” said Angie Chait, one of the food pantry’s organizers, “despite the morning rain.  I was worried people wouldn’t come out since it was so heavy at times!” Chait is also the Founder and Director of The Chait Domestic Abuse Center (CDAC).

“We distributed 250 pounds of food today,” She noted. “We had 50 families and 200 pounds of food” at their very first pantry two weeks ago, and “we expect to continue growing.”

An energetic group of volunteers handed out a variety of non-perishable dry and canned foods, fresh produce and frozen meats and fish. Offerings included fresh pineapples, celery, cauliflower, cucumber, onions, sweet potato, broccoli rabe and salad mixes, plus canned chicken, tuna, salmon and mackerel. There was also pasta, rice, lentils, split peas, garbanzo beans, peanut butter, pancake mix and macaroni and cheese. Items like frozen pizza, chicken, Salisbury steak, pasta, fish sticks and mac & cheese dinners along with sesame, whole wheat, sourdough bread loaves and coconut water and sparkling fruit flavored waters were also distributed.

“I’m really pleased with the selection we are able to share with the community!” Chait said.

Director Turney-Rentas noted, “Overall the food pantry is something we wanted to bring to the B.R.I.D.G.E. Family Enrichment Center. It’s something we saw as a need as Rockaway is known somewhat as a food desert. We saw the need and wanted to bring this to the Rockaway/Broad Channel community. Especially to bring fresh food and produce, nutritional foods, things people really need. So there is no family left behind.”

The CDAC and the Far Rock Greek Council have been two of the prime movers in making the food pantry a reality. About working with the two organizations, Turney-Rentas stated, “We are happy to collaborate with them and hold space for the pantry.”

“It has been a success. We have increased our frequency from one (distribution) per month to now every two weeks.”

“We are looking to increase the number and hopefully feed as many people as possible. We do have a room dedicated to pantry items. We can hold a lot of non-perishables.” And, he noted, “Our pantry is still open to the public. They can still come throughout the week from 9:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. for any items we still have, canned goods, dry goods.”

The B.R.I.D.G.E. Family Enrichment Center occupies a 5,000-square-foot space, formerly the CROM martial arts gym, on Beach 92nd Street, just off Rockaway Beach Blvd. It functions as a center for the community, offering support, and aiming to address the needs of, and providing a variety of services to, all Rockaway peninsula and Broad Channel residents and families. The group’s staff have described FECs as “unique, homelike spaces where community members of all ages are able to connect, find resources to support one another and contribute to their community.” They noted, “At the B.R.I.D.G.E., our mission is to be the hub bringing community members from all ends of the Rockaways and Broad Channel together, serving as the bridge—unifying the community to achieve common goals.”

In 2022, the Ocean Bay Community Development Corporation (OBCDC) in Rockaway was one of nine organizations citywide selected to run FEC sites. FECs are funded by Administration for Children’s Services (ACS), however staff are not required to collect names or report cases to that agency.

About the ongoing food pantry program, Chait pointed out, “We work with food banks…all around the city, like City Harvest, to pick up all the food donations. We are indebted and so grateful to them for helping feed Rockaway.”

“We have incredible volunteers who are community members. Neighbors showing up for neighbors. It’s heartwarming to see volunteers show up like this ready to serve and strengthen the community they live in, the community we live in and love so much.”

The next food pantry date is scheduled for Saturday, May 6, from 10 a.m. to 12 noon. Going forward it will continue every other Saturday during those hours.

The B.R.I.D.G.E. Family Enrichment Center is located at 217 Beach 92nd Street. For more information visit @fecthebridge or @the.cdac on Instagram.

Photos courtesy of B.R.I.D.G.E. FEC and Angie Chait

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