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    Food Banks and Food Pantries are Responding to the Needs of our Seniors that are Home Bound or Sheltered-in-Place During COVID-19

    Chief Executive Officer

    In the past two-months since the COVID-19 pandemic tightened its grip on our nation, requiring masses of businesses to close and millions of people to shelter in place and stay at home to stop the spread of the virus, Americans have donated more than $1 billion to support local food banks. Food banks like Long Island Cares and Island Harvest have been on the frontlines of our region’s COVID-19 response, delivering emergency food to our neighbors in need either through numerous drive-through locations or, in Long Island Cares’ case, delivering food to more than 310 local food pantries and now developing nearly two-dozen temporary food bank pop-up locations in high-need communities or expanding some of our existing satellite hunger assistance centers within the Towns of Hempstead, Babylon, and Huntington.  While most of the media attention is on the large food banks, we must not forget about our local pantries that are providing emergency food to record numbers of people that are turning to them for assistance as well.

    Then, there are other programs like Meals on Wheels that are still delivering food to our homebound seniors who are limited in their ability to visit their local pantry because in order to go to the pantry they have to venture outside, and too many of them are fearful of leaving their homes in the middle of a pandemic.  In the past two-months, Long Island Cares has delivered emergency food to nearly 3,500 seniors through our S.O.S. (Supporting our Seniors) Mobile Delivery Services.  This program was initially funded by an emergency grant from the New York State Department of Health from January-March, 2020 and is now being funded by corporate and private donations made to our COVID-19 Response Fund. In the past two-months, Long Island Cares has seen a total of 790 new seniors turn to the regional food bank for emergency food assistance directly related to COVID-19.  In addition to the food we’re delivering to our seniors, we are also providing them with protective face masks and gloves generously provided by the Suffolk County Office of Emergency Management.  Our S.O.S. staff has always delivered food to our seniors at their various municipal senior housing locations but now, due to their fears and medical histories, we are delivering food and supplies right to their front door.

    Our local pantries and hundreds of volunteers on Long Island are also doing their part to help our seniors during these difficult time.  Pantries have begun to incorporate home delivery of food as part of their daily operations and volunteers in many local communities are shopping for senior neighbors at local supermarkets whose shelves continue to be half-stocked of paper goods, cleaning supplies and other essential products because of high demand and delays of 4-6 in deliveries from the supply chain.

    As we continue to adjust to our new normal, we just don’t know how New York State and Long Island will begin to reopen for business.  We don’t know if COVID-19 testing and tracing will be available to our 2.8 million residents in Nassau and Suffolk, and we don’t know how many Long Islanders will ever return to work following the record numbers of our neighbors that have been furloughed or have lost their jobs permanently.  What I do know is that, our local food pantries will continue to see an increase in demand and that Long Island Cares will increase our satellite locations from 8-24 by the end of May, and we will spend most of our funding to purchase food to get us through the next seven-months.  As we move forward in our plans to reopen Long Island, please consider donating to your local food pantry where you live and please consider an extra donation to our Meals on Wheels programs.  We will get through this and recover together.  To locate a pantry, visit www.licares.org/foodlocator


    Originally published in the HIA-LI Reporter, May, 2020


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