A Red Hook marine terminal and a Queens food importer have teamed up to donate 20,000 pineapples to Brooklyn community groups and food pantries.
“We were talking about what was going on with the coronavirus and people being unemployed, and tried to figure out what we could do to help,” said Mike Stamatis, the president of the Red Hook Container Terminal, which imports much of the city’s produce. “It’s just been a way for us to support the local community that’s really always been a supporter of us.”
The Red Hook Container Terminal received two shipping containers full of Costa Rica pineapples the week before Easter, and worked with elected officials and food rescue organizations to donate the fresh produce to residents in Red Hook, Gowanus, and Sunset Park.
City Harvest, which distributed the bulk of the donations, said the tropical fruit was a special treat for many food pantries, which tend to receive mostly canned food or shelf-stable grains.
“The pineapple is a very unique item that the agencies don’t get to see a lot,” said food sourcing coordinator Saul Puche, who said the non-profit distributed more than 48,000 pounds of pineapples. “The shipping containers themselves are so tall they don’t fit in the warehouse doors.”
City Harvest gave the pineapples to the Sunset Park Corps, Holding Hands Ministries, the Center for Family Life, Movement of Pentecostal Christian Church, and Park Slope Christian Health Inc. — which diversified the food pantries’ shelves.
“I’d say we get pineapples once a year,” said Joel Matos, the president of the Sunset Park food pantry, Holding Hands Ministries. “We serve a very Hispanic community. So they love pineapples, they were excited.”
The donation comes as food pantries across the city see an unprecedented spike in demand. Mantos said that, since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak in mid-March, so many locals have come to his food pantry that he’s been forced to turn people away.
“This is the first time we’ve seen this many people,” he said. “I’ve never seen anybody beg for food in this way. On the day we had to turn ppl away, people were beginning to kneel. Ive never seen that.”
On Friday, the Red Hook Container Terminal and its partner, food distributor Redi Fresh Produce Inc., plan to donate tens of thousands of bananas to more local organizations, which should receive the donations within the next few days.
“We have more bananas coming,” said Peter Malo, who operates Redi Fresh Produce Inc. “They’ll probably be here the following week.”