Why He’s a Food Hero: Juan Carlos Ruiz, as the head priest of The Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd, established a food pantry in the church at the beginning of the pandemic, which serves more than twenty thousand pounds of food to two thousand families in Brooklyn each week. Ruiz himself made countless home deliveries to Brooklynites in need. Many of the families helped by the pantry are undocumented, and therefore ineligible for federal financial relief such as stimulus checks and unemployment benefits. The church also frequently hosts the Brooklyn Immigrant Community Support-Mutual Aid in their food relief efforts.
Background: Juan Carlos Ruiz has been a priest at The Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, since 2018, after being expelled as a priest from the Catholic Church more than ten years earlier. He came to the United States in 1986 from Mexico, attending seminary while in a legal limbo after his visa expired. His experiences at the myriad different New York City and New Jersey churches at which he has served as priest have given him a reputation for helping undocumented immigrants access resources, find food, and connect with loved ones.
Work: In addition to running the food pantry, The Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd acts as a vaccination site for community members, mostly undocumented. Ruiz also provides church services over Zoom on Sundays.
Location: Bay Ridge, Brooklyn
Awards, Praise and Honors: Ruiz’s efforts to help undocumented immigrants in Brooklyn was spotlighted by The New Yorker in August 2020.
Resources and References:
- Juan Carlos Ruiz (Ecologies of Migrant Care)
- The Renegade Priest Helping Undocumented People Survive the Pandemic (New Yorker)
- Reverend Juan Carlos Ruiz on Vaccinations For the Undocumented (BBC World News America)
- Sobrevivientes Latinos de COVID-19 en NY Son Abandonados a la Deriva (Radio Bilingue)