Van Bramer said the small food banks in his Queens district — which includes Long Island City, parts of Astoria, Woodside and Sunnyside — are seeing fewer food donations this year while seeing an uptick the in the number of clients coming for aid.
"There's great need, there's enormous need, and in some places donations are down," Van Bramer said Thursday as he delivered bags of canned and packaged foods to the Bread of Life food pantry in Queensbridge, part of the councilman's annual food drive.
Bread of Life, a storefront on 12th Street, has been giving out bags of groceries to the neighborhood's needy for over 20 years, according to Bishop Mitchell Taylor of the Center for Hope International Church in Long Island City, which runs the pantry.
"Traditionally, food pantries like Bread of Life were serving people in dire straights," Taylor said. "Now we're seeing a new working poor, people that have had income adjustments because of job or career changes, because of the economy. The food pantry becomes a supplement to their regular shopping budget."
Taylor says federal cuts to food programs have strained the state and city resources that anti-hunger organizations and food banks rely on. A few months ago, Bread of Life was dropped from the distribution list of one of its biggest food donors because the organization decided to focus its resources on larger pantries, Taylor said.
Van Bramer said his yearly food drive is one way to draw attention to the need of small neighborhood organization's like Taylor's, which often lack the resources and fundraising abilities of larger food banks.
"I think a lot of these smaller and mid-sized pantries are even more important because they’re targeting communities, they’re embedded in communities, this is the one place where people can go," Van Bramer said.
His office has been collecting canned and non-perishable foods from the community for the past month, which were delivered Thursday to Bread of Life, and to another community food pantry run by Hour Children.
Taylor said the donations would allow Bread of Life to give each visitor an extra bag of groceries for the upcoming holidays.
"We're pretty much well stocked now, but we’ll be out before the day is over, before tomorrow’s over," he said.