On a chilly day in the Melrose section of The Bronx, a line stretched for blocks, with neighborhood residents waiting for food for their holiday tables and beyond.

What You Need To Know

  • The Hunts Point Produce Market is the largest wholesale produce market in the world

  • The Market has expanded its annual Hunts Point Gives Back event from one day in The Bronx to nine days citywide

  • More than 3,000 bags with 25,000 pounds of food will be assembled and distributed

  • Two million New Yorkers suffer from food insecurity

Among the first on line at the Bronx Works Classic Community Center was Julio Ortiz, a maintenance worker at Barclays Center who hasn't collected a paycheck during the pandemic. He arrived at the center at East 156th Street at 5 a.m.

"I'm hustling to get more food and to help others," said Ortiz, who often goes to various pantries to get food for his family and neighbors who are unable to leave their homes. 

Ortiz is one of those benefiting from this holiday food distribution by the Hunts Point Produce Market, the largest in the world, made up of more than 30 family-owned businesses. They typically hold a yearly one-day event in the South Bronx prior to Thanksgiving, but this year, they expanded it to all five boroughs because of the extreme need brought on by COVID-19. 

"We're doing everything we possibly can to give back and lift people’s spirits, get them some healthy stuff to lift their immune systems, and see what we can do to further help for the rest of the year at least," said Gabriela D'Arrigo, vice president of marketing and communications for D'Arrigo New York, a longtime merchant at the market. 

The market teams up with local elected officials like Councilman Rafael Salamanca Jr. for these distributions. Salamanca's father worked at the market for years, so he has established a relationship with them.

His office has been holding twice-a-week food distributions throughout the pandemic, feeding close to 30,000 neighbors. He was able to secure donated turkeys for this event. 

“It's more expensive to eat healthier, and so residents are on a budget they may be on public assistance, they have to stretch out the money that they get so they can feed their entire family,” said Salamanca Jr., who added that being able to give neighbors fresh produce so they can eat healthier goes a long way.

That's why they waited in line for hours for bags of fresh fruits and vegetables and a turkey for Thanksgiving.

"The people need help, and this is a good thing that they are doing,” said Eddie Corbett, a Bronx Resident and veteran.

The Hunts Point produce Market says they hope to make this new look of multiple days of food distributions around the city a yearly thing, since the need doesn't appear to be going away anytime soon.