On a muggy Friday morning in March, dozens of people lined up outside of the Bronx Terminal Market awaiting their turn to receive boxes of free food. The scene is familiar- Catholic Charities Community Services has been hosting food distribution events like these at the market for nearly a year now in response to the pandemic.
“Since the COVID-19 pandemic, the program quickly mobilized to address the needs of food insecurity,” says Corina Pintor-Holloman, program director for Feeding our Neighbors, an emergency food service program that is part of Catholic Charities Community Services.
On the last Friday of every month, Feeding Our Neighbors distributes roughly 500 cases of food to those in need at Bronx Terminal Market.
“We’ve seen a big increase in food insecurity, about a 50% increase in what we would normally see,” says Pintor-Holloman.
Although Catholic Charities runs other pantry distribution sites around the Bronx, the giant Bronx Terminal Market space allows them to reach more people.
“Our actual hub is not too far away from here,” Pinto-Holloman explains. “It’s a great location for us because we know there is a higher need in the South Bronx. This is an open area for anyone in the community, and very easy access for them.”
Those who show up to the distribution are given one box filled with fresh vegetables, another with dry goods featuring staples like rice and beans, as well as a gallon of milk. Pinto-Holloman says the boxes provide about nine meals.
Though these pop-up distributions have been helpful during the pandemic, Pintor-Holloman also highlights the need for continued resources for people who are having trouble accessing food. Catholic Charities has people available during the pop-up pantries to assist with eligibility questions and applications for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
Janet Jimenez, Bronx Terminal Market’s property manager, enjoys hosting Catholic Charities’ pop-up pantries. A year ago, she was approached about a partnership with the organization and thought it was a good idea. In a matter of weeks, the first distribution event took place.
Having community-centered events at the market is important for Jimenez, who enthusiastically describes other upcoming events. Next month, the market will host Tomorrow’s Leaders, an organization that helps local teenagers prepare for the professional world with interview readiness, job searching and business attire.
“Our local people buy here,” says Jimenez. “Our major asset is the community, it’s our people. Without them, we are just a piece of building. We need the community to provide a better environment where they feel that this is for them. Without them, we are just a commercial center, but it’s more than that.”
Catholic Charities will continue to host pop-up food distribution sites at Bronx Terminal Market through the summer. Their tent opens at 10:00 am on the last Friday of each month and operates until supplies run out.