It was very good. Now, it’s new and improved. Queens Together, which was established in March 2020 to feed people facing hunger and health care workers who were treating COVID-19 patients in local hospitals, recently became a nonprofit membership organization for food-related businesses.
Based in Astoria but serving the entire borough, Queens Together will operate like a trade association, providing advocacy, education, savings, marketing, and income opportunities to members. Community service ─ most frequently feeding underserved populations ─ is also a mainstay of its mission.
Jonathan Forgash, a chef and business leader, will lead the new agency, while Sunnyside Shines Business Improvement District executive director Jaime-Faye Bean will serve as the treasurer and government liaison officer.
Membership fees are $329 a year, and Forgash anticipates that Queens Together will grow into a large and diverse group, consisting of restaurant and café owners, specialty product makers, beverage vendors, and wholesalers.
Queens Together is already organizing webinars on such topics as compliance with COVID-19 guidelines and good business practices. Soon, Forgash and Bean plan to set up meetings with elected officials, government agency representatives, and civic leaders.
In the near future, they’ll organize flash sales, bulk-purchasing deals, gift card discounts, and event-planning offers, while also negotiating low-cost, high-quality contracts with providers of such services as hood cleaning, inspections, and wholesale products.
“The Queens Together Association is creating one strong voice to represent, empower, and support the diverse food industry of our amazing borough,” Forgash stated. “We’re going to deliver real dollars, real savings, and real promotions.”
At the height of the COVID-19 crisis this past spring, Queens Together worked with Acting Queens Borough President Sharon Lee, Queens Economic Development Corporation, and the Queens Night Market on “Fuel the Frontlines.” The joint initiative raised money to hire local companies to prepare thousands of ready-to-go meals for health care professionals and others.
Before Queens Together, Forgash ran Star Struck Catering, a film and TV industry catering service, for more than 20 years. In 2016, he co-founded the Queens Dinner Club, an informal group that gets together for periodic meals at different borough venues, with Joe DiStefano, a blogger and Queens Tourism Council’s official foodie, and long-time restaurant promoter Gabe Gross. He also organizes events, such as “Dining For Justice,” which raise money for social-justice causes.
Before joining Sunnyside Shines, Bean worked for such nonprofits as Weill Cornell Medicine, ASPCA, and ArteEast, which supports Middle Eastern artists and collaboratives. She’s on Thalía Spanish Theatre’s board of directors and a member of the Moving of the Moving Image’s Neighborhood Council.
For more information, visit queenstogether.org.