Racheal Notto (MS ’18) Responds to the Covid-19 Crisis in Western Queens

Racheal Notto (MS ’18) has been volunteering with LIC Relief, a charity focused on the impacts of Covid-19 specifically food insecurity and the local economy. She’s volunteering there about 15 hours a week helping with meal distribution, managing the food pantry, and looking for new partners. She recently wrote us about the important work LIC Relief is doing. 

LIC Relief was founded March 13, 2020 by Kelly Craig and Patrick Thompson. They called upon local civic, religious and business organizations to work together to alleviate food insecurity needs in Western Queens neighborhoods and surrounding areas due to the Covid-19 crisis. Our model is two-pronged, meal distribution in partnership with local restaurants and operating a dry goods food collection site. 

We provide financial support to 12 local Western Queens restaurants and in return they cook and pack hot, nutritional meals. The meals are for students and families impacted by the school closures as well as any person in need or unable to secure a daily meal. This model helps food insecure community members and allows local restaurants to remain in business and keep their staff employed. Meals are distributed Monday to Friday 1 pm to 2 pm at Plaxall Gallery.

We also collect non-perishable food items to fill our Food Collection Center. Our Food Collection Center replenishes local food pantries in Western Queens. Unfortunately, during this crisis many pantries are almost emptied on a daily basis and struggle to keep up with demand. Our Center also packs up three to five days’ worth of food for community members that can pick-up from Plaxall Gallery or request delivery if they are unable to leave their home. Our Food Collection Center is open Monday to Friday 3 pm to 7 pm at Plaxall Gallery.

Little did we know after launching this non-profit what our neighborhood would come together to accomplish. Here are some highlights as of April 22:  

  • Over $110,000 has been raised from individuals, foundations, and local businesses and developers to fund our meal distribution strategy. $18,000 per week, amounting to over $56,500, is invested into the local economy to help keep restaurants open and their staffs employed. We have funding to continue this relief effort for three more weeks and are working to secure funding to continue this until at least May 15.
  • Our restaurant partners prepare 5,000 meals a week for distribution to people across Western Queens neighborhoods. Over 12,500 meals have been distributed to people in need. We are currently delivering over 700 meals a day to our distribution partners at Hour Children and the NYCHA complexes at Ravenswood, Queensbridge, and Astoria.
  • Daily there are over 180 grab and go meals picked up from our restaurant partners by people in need. We are supporting 12 restaurants through our financial contributions helping to keep the local economy afloat. 
  • Our Food Collection Center, in a space generously provided by Plaxall Gallery, is open Monday – Friday from 3-7pm and has collected over a half ton of dry good donations to support the Bread of Life Pantry, Hour Children Pantry and Sunnyside Community Services. Many of these donations are coming from our new partnership with Food Cellar LIC who are making weekly financial and dry good donations. 
  • We are supporting The Floating Hospital and the LIC Community Health Care center with 90 meals a day.
  • Through our partnership with the Queens Borough President’s Office we received and distributed 100 boxes of groceries and drinking water.

The most critical needs for food donations include:

  • Fresh produce
  • Rice & beans
  • Shelf stable milks
  • Tomato sauce
  • Peanut butter
  • Canned tuna & chicken
  • Canned fruit & veggies
  • Pasta

You can help LIC Relief continue feeding Western Queens in the weeks and months ahead by making a financial donation online or via our Amazon Dry Goods Wish List at LICRelief.org. You can also follow us on Instagram, @licrelief, for our latest updates. 

If you are volunteering or doing other important work in response to the coronavirus pandemic, please let us know! Email us at [email protected]

LIC Relief co-founders Kelly Craig and Patrick Thompson with dry food donations at Plaxall Gallery.
Diana Manalang, LIC Relief board member and owner of Little Chef Little Café one of our restaurant partners, preparing hot, nutritional meals for distribution to community members in need.

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