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Yanks help Munoz give HOPE to hungry

Yankees 'Hope Week' honoree Jorge Munoz poses for

Yankees 'Hope Week' honoree Jorge Munoz poses for a photograph before a game against the Cleveland Indians at Yankee Stadium. (June 26, 2012) Credit: Jim McIsaac

Jorge Munoz's life mission began in 2004, when he ran into a group of day laborers on the corner of Roosevelt Avenue and 73rd Street in the Jackson Heights section of Queens.

The laborers told Munoz they could afford to eat only on days they found work. Otherwise, they went hungry.

Munoz, 48, recalls telling the laborers: "Can you wait for me tomorrow? I'll bring you food."

The following night, Munoz returned with eight brown bag sandwiches. That number swelled to 35 by the second night. Eight years later, he feeds nearly 160 people every evening underneath the elevated tracks at the 74th Street/Roosevelt Avenue subway stop.

He prepares fresh meals out of the two small kitchens in his Woodhaven home. His mother, niece, nephew and an assistant cook constitute his small but dedicated labor force.

Tuesday, as a part of HOPE Week, the Yankees surprised the man nicknamed the "Angel in Queens" with food supplies, a $10,000 check and some assistance from Curtis Granderson, Robinson Cano, Hiroki Kuroda and Boone Logan.

"The average American doesn't even cook anymore every day, so for him to cook for so many people every day is just remarkable," Logan said. "That's a lot of work, and he's dedicated and loves what he does.

"Nothing is going to stand in his way."

With the four Yankees and a revolving group of media filling the kitchens, Munoz went about preparing that evening's meal: rice and lentils with potatoes and Colombian sausage.

"I think the amount that he's able to produce day in and day out with the space he has is probably the most amazing thing," Granderson said. "He's cooking 100-plus plates, not just once a week, but every day."

Munoz routinely cooks from 1-5 in the afternoon before spending the next two hours packing the meals, which he then hauls into his pickup truck. He has missed one day since starting the program, when a snowstorm made transporting the food impossible.

"I felt bad the next day because I went to the corner, and they said they were waiting for me," Munoz said. "I promised them I would never miss another day."

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