ASTORIA — A program distributing farm fresh food in Astoria has been forced to move out of a field house at a local community center where it has been located for years and will now operate outdoors, members and officials said.
The Astoria Community Supported Agriculture program had been using the space at the ARROW Community Center on 35th Street since 2007. Every Thursday, more than 300 members go there to pick up fresh vegetables, fruit, bread and milk.
But the group said that they were told Wednesday by the Parks Department, which runs the center, that starting next week they would not be able to use the field house because the building would be used instead for an after school program run by the Queens Central Y, the Parks Department confirmed.
A Parks spokesman said in an e-mail that the agency "has recently begun to offer free, educational afterschool programs to children in traditionally underserved communities, in partnership with the Department of Youth and Community Development."
The group members said they met with Parks Department representatives Friday morning and presented a petition they had started on Change.org which gathered over 400 signatures asking to keep the program at the location.
As a result, the group was offered a spot outside the field house with tents and tables.
The spokesman for the department added they "will meet with the CSA to discuss options for future accommodation."
Stacey Ornstein, president of the Astoria CSA, said the group "is happy to stay at the location" although some of their programs will be diminished. The Astoria CSA has been using the space for free, but in return the group provided community outreach, including free food and nutrition classes.
Ornstein noted the Astoria CSA works with about 40 New York farmers, two local businesses, and three charities. “We also donate our leftover vegetables to the Steinway Food Pantry which serves over 200 families,” said Ornstein, who estimates that in total the program serves more than 1000 people.
To become a member of the Astoria CSA, residents have to buy into a vegetable share which costs $530 a year. They have to pay extra for other products like fruit, milk, meat or bread. About 10-15 percent of their members receive subsidized shares.