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Queens College writers organize hunger benefit

Queens College Master’s in Fine Arts students will hold a reading next week to raise money for City Harvest, a group that helps feed the increasing number of New Yorkers in all five boroughs who have been driven to seek help from food pantries by the weak economy.

“Efforts like this are vital in a time when lines to the local food pantries and kitchens are only getting longer,” said Jocelyn Lieu, a visiting professor in the college’s MFA Program in Creative Writing and Literary Translation, who is helping to organize the event. “It’s rare that writers get the chance as writers to directly help other people. By mounting this benefit series, the emerging poets, fiction writers, playwrights and translators %u2026 are doing just that.”

The graduate students will host the “Read It and Reap” benefit Monday from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the college’s Godwin-Ternbach Museum. There is a suggested donation of $5 to attend the event and all proceeds raised at the reading will go directly to City Harvest. The donations are tax-deductible.

City Harvest recently issued a report that found New Yorkers made 400,000 more visits to soup kitchens and food pantries in the third quarter of this year than the same time in 2008.

The organization will collect more than 25 million pounds of excess food from the food industry, including restaurants and grocers, and deliver it to more than 600 community groups helping hungry New Yorkers in all five boroughs this year. About 260,000 city residents each week will go to a food pantry serviced by the organization.

“The recession’s aftershocks are still being felt in many communities in New York City, and new faces continue to be seen in lines at the emergency feeding programs,” said Jilly Stephens, executive director of City Harvest. “In response, City Harvest is prepared to sustain increased food deliveries throughout the fall and winter, targeting additional deliveries to where the need is greatest.”

Monday’s reading will feature works by about 15 writers, whose pieces will focus on the theme of hunger.

“I’m really excited about the reading because it’s not only going to present our program and the people who are in it and all very talented, but it’s also for an excellent cause,” said James Shultis, a second-year student in the Queens College MFA program who will read one of his poems at the event. “There are more than a million people in the city that are homeless or hungry, which is insane.”

Lieu, the author of a Sept. 11 memoir, “What Isn’t There: Inside a Season of Change,” said she hopes to make this reading a pilot event that could eventually become a routine occurrence at the college. For Lieu, hunger has become easier for everyday New Yorkers to see, or witness, in their daily lives.

“My daughter goes to a New York public school, and we have so many friends who are in transition around work, and I see them wandering around the supermarkets with sales fliers thinking, ‘Can we afford hot dogs?’ or ‘The price of rice has gone up and what are we going to do about that?’” Lieu said.

A reception and MFA program open house will immediately follow the readings. For more information, contact the MFA program director, Nicole Cooley, at nicole.cooley@qc.cuny.edu.

Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e-mail at agustafson@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 174.

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