Rooftop farms, school gardens, and healthier lunches for students: These are some of the things that Queens residents envision for their neighborhoods and families. And the Queens Action Council (QuAC), a collaborative working to create a fairer food landscape, wants to help locals realize these goals. On Saturday, QuAC hosted the Second Annual NW Queens Food Day, bringing together businesses, greenmarket vendors, advocates, and community members seeking better access to healthy, affordable food.
The event was held in Socrates Sculpture Park, a neighbor to the Queensbridge Houses. The nearby NYCHA complex is the largest public housing development in the country; QuAC members say the residents there are isolated from the rest of the neighborhood, and finding fresh and nutritious food poses a serious challenge. Demonstrations were designed to address such issues of food insecurity, and included lessons in cleaning and cooking with herbs, pickling vegetables, and preparing dishes that incorporate leafy greens.
There were also a number of booths highlighting initiatives to boost community well-being. The Hellgate Farm, for instance, the first residential urban farm in the city, invites volunteers to get their hands dirty by composting, planting, and growing fresh produce, as well as hanging out with the several egg-laying chickens on the premises. The Corbin Hill Food Project, meanwhile, delivers farm-fresh produce to Harlem, the Bronx, and now Queens. Unlike many CSAs, Corbin Hill’s farm shares are flexible and designed for low-income neighborhoods; shareholders can purchase fruits, vegetables, eggs, and beans on a week-by-week basis, and use SNAP benefits to do so.
The park, which offers the public free access to interactive works of art in a picturesque setting alongside the East River, was an apt location for the day. In the afternoon, a workshop was held inside one of the sculptures, Pawel Althamer’s massive Queen Mother of Reality, which houses a hidden room behind latticework and fabric. There, participants explored their relationships with food and voiced their concerns and dreams for the future. Education featured largely: Locals said that they hope for programs that break the stigma of free school breakfasts and lunches, and want their children to learn more about nutrition and agriculture.
Contending with food insecurity is a daunting challenge, but the enthusiastic turnout for the event seemed to point toward positive change for Western Queens. After the jump, some photos from the day.