Hundreds Line Up for Free Groceries and Hot Meals at Queens Temple

Oct 27, 2023 | by Syed Adib

“Every time, people are coming and coming and coming, every time. Yes, a lot of people”, stated one woman as she stood in line at The Salvation Army Queens Temple Corps food pantry, waiting to receive free groceries. The line, which wraps around the block every Thursday, serves nearly 200 people – a sight reminiscent of the worst days of the pandemic. However, unlike the days of COVID, patrons do not have additional cash benefits to buy groceries. Food insecurity has become more apparent since the end of pandemic unemployment assistance and as the cost of living in New York City rises. Paychecks alone can’t cover the cost of groceries, driving up the demand for free groceries and hot meals from nonprofit organizations such as The Salvation Army. So far, we have served 53% more meals to New Yorkers in the first nine months of 2023, compared to the same time last year.

The migrant crisis and the slow rate at which Food Stamp and Cash Assistance applications are being processed have also contributed to the surge in demand for free groceries. Major Guillermo De Caterina, The Salvation Army Director of Queens Temple, describes the growing need for food assistance as a “perfect storm”.

He described how the lines have changed from being predominantly Hispanic to a diverse mix of people from Asia, South America, and Central America. Some residents come at night to tie plastic bags or hang tote bags on the fences to secure their place in line, while others queue up hours before doors open to ensure they don’t have to wait too long. 

The growing backlog of Food Stamps and Cash Assistance applications is another reason why there has been an increase in food insecurity. According to city data, only 10% of the 43,000 applications for Cash Assistance applications in June were processed, the lowest rates since 2006. The city says that it has received twice the number of applications since before COVID while food prices are up by more than 3% this year compared to last.

The day at Queens Temple doesn't stop after all the grocery bags are given out. Before the line for free groceries ends, another quickly forms behind it – this one for hot meals. The Salvation Army Queens Temple Corps serves 300 hot meals daily.

The Salvation Army depends on the generosity of donors to keep our doors open to those who need a hot meal or to put food on the table for their family. $105 can feed a family of four for a week. Do your part in helping your neighbors and donate today to make sure no one goes hungry or struggles to feed their family this holiday season.

Help End Food Insecurity


Support The Salvation Army and its efforts to end food insecurity by donating today. Let’s make sure no one goes hungry or struggles to put food on the table this holiday season.

Recent Stories

Related Content: News Feature

Get Involved

A gift to The Salvation Army helps someone in your community.

Give Now



Do Good in your community

Find Worship

Join us throughout the week for worship, fellowship, Bible study, meals, community service and fun.