Island Harvest Food Bank has distributed more than one million pounds of food for the period March 9 through April 17, providing emergency food to people in need across Long Island in response to the increased demand created by the COVID-19 pandemic. The food bank has also delivered essential products to more than 1,874 homebound senior citizens and veterans and screened approximately 676 Long Islanders for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits.
“This is an incredible moment of peril for us all,” said Randi Shubin Dresner, president and CEO, Island Harvest Food Bank. “The coronavirus has created a new standard of need, and now people who have never sought food assistance and others who have known support from local food pantries alike are on the same lines waiting for food support these days.”
Long Island’s high cost of living, coupled with the economic calamity caused by the pandemic, has stressed local feeding programs as they try to keep pace with the increased demand for emergency food assistance. Recent reports indicate that Long Island has led all other regions in New York State in unemployment claims, on a percentage basis. Shubin Dresner noted that many first-time unemployment claimants are also accessing emergency feeding programs supplied by Island Harvest Food Bank.
“Not a day goes by that we don’t hear someone say they never thought they would be on the receiving end of a food distribution,” she said. “Many people who once donated to Island Harvest are now asking us for help.”
Island Harvest Food Bank activated its Coronavirus Emergency Response Program on March 9, with a roll-out of a revised Emergency Contingency Business Plan (identifying special precautions to retain the safety of its assets, namely staff, volunteers, clients and its food supply. Its entire operation now centers on responding to the needs of people on Long Island impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, and its regular food distribution programs have been re-adapted to accommodate this response. The food bank is also assisting with applying for certain benefits including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps. Spanish speaking associates are available to assist non-English speaking residents in getting help.
Normally relying on donated food to assist the people it serves, Island Harvest Food Bank has seen those sources dry up and instead has changed its food procurement model to buying food to meet the ever-increasing demand.
“Supermarkets, food wholesalers, restaurants, and others simply don’t have the surplus product to donate, and many community-based food drives we rely on have disappeared, too,” explained Ms. Shubin Dresner. Many large-scale food drives, including the National Association of Letter Carriers’ Stamp Out Hunger food drive, the nation’s largest single-day food drive held on the second Saturday in May, has been postponed due to the coronavirus. Last year, Stamp Out Hunger collected approximately 520,014 pounds of food across Long Island.
“Our main priority remains that no one on Long Island goes without food during this unprecedented public health emergency, stated Ms. Shubin Dresner. “To that end, Island Harvest Food Bank continues to identify geographic areas and specific populations where access to a steady supply of food may be lacking because no one on Long Island should go hungry.”
Island Harvest Food Bank: By the Numbers from March 9, 2020, through April 10
Food and Product Distributions (Mobile Food Programs and Other):
Drop-off sites: 330
Pounds of product distributed: >1,000,000 lbs.
Meals supported: 833,000 meals
Homebound deliveries (seniors, veterans): 1,874
Active school district partners: 28
SNAP called/screened and community resource referrals: 676
SNAP applications submitted: 165
For more information about Island Harvest Food Bank, visit www.islandharvest.org or call 631-873-4775.