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P.S. 72 food bank grows along with need

P.S. 72 gives all year round.

Fully equipped with a food pantry for the past two years, school officials has been helping needy families to get food and necessary services 11 months out of the year.

“We don’t run the pantry in August,” said parent coordinator Veronica Brugman. “That’s when I get my vacation.”

At the start of the 2008 school year, Brugman cleaned out a closet in the school and asked community groups and area residents to donate whatever dried and canned foods they could to help support the needy families of P.S. 72. A few years earlier she had opened up a similar food pantry, while working at P.S. 192 in Manhattan.

“When I moved here, they asked me if I would open up another pantry and I did,” Brugman said. “When I came to this school the principal ordered a cabinet and we put it in a closet. It doesn’t take much to establish a pantry. All you need is people to donate food, a closet and then to spread the word that if you need something let me know.”

Brugman and two volunteers keep the pantry stocked, organized and clear of food that has passed it’s expiration date.

Brugman does not keep records of the number of families getting services, but this holiday season, the pantry has been getting more use than ever, she said.

“Do I have more customers than I’ve ever had before? Definitely,” she said. “The need has grown as word has gone out about the pantry, but I don’t know if it’s that people have less, or that they are not as embarrassed to ask for assistance.”

The pantry at P.S. 72 is the only year-round food pantry in the area, Brugman said. Many families have come to rely on the foods provided. Hungry families not only get meals and household items, Brugman said she tried to connect families with essential social services whenever possible.

“Really nothing in the area says that they are going to have something for these families after the holidays,” she said. “Some come in once, they get their things together and they don’t need us any more. Some families come in over and over. I definitely have repeat customers, and we service at least three people a day.”

Thankfully many in the area have stepped up their donations to meet the growing demand.

Lynn Gerbino, president of the Throggs Neck Home Owners Association, said she has been asking the members to donate to the pantry at every meeting; and the members have heeded the call.

“Just from watching TV you can see how much hunger there is out there. The food banks are low. The effects of the economy is hitting everybody,” she said. “Our members are always wonderful with donations.”

The group took up a large collection for the pantry on Tuesday, November 30. It was the first time the TNHOA donated to the school, but they only recently heard of the pantry, Gerbino said.

“Where we just used to send out fliers, we’re now involved in outreach with these different organizations. Everywhere I go I mention the pantry,” Brugman said. “We’ve gotten a lot of help from Community Board 10 and the merchants association recently. I can’t complain.”

The pantry is only available for families with children at P.S. 72, and all of the services are provided anonymously.

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