During the last quarter of the year from October through December food banks across the country experience major spikes in donations as the winter holidays approach. It’s at this time that, many of our neighbors are in the holiday spirit and frequently think about those people in the community that are in need. The public’s awareness of children that might not receive a holiday gift or the thought of a homeless family that doesn’t have warm coats for their children, and the idea that a family might not have the resources to enjoy a holiday meal with family or friends weigh heavily on the hearts of those of us willing and able to help those less fortunate than ourselves.
This holiday season an additional 220,000 Long Islanders are turning to Long Island Cares-The Harry Chapin Food Bank for emergency food assistance due to COVID-19. The pandemic has resulted in record job losses for tens of thousands of Long Islanders who are living paycheck-to-paycheck and many of these neighbors don’t have adequate savings or other resources to put food on their tables. In just the past nine-months, our network of 374 local food pantries, soup kitchens and other emergency food programs have witnessed a 58-percent increase in the number of people struggling with food insecurity. The numbers of hungry Long Islanders has increased from 259,000 in March to 480,000 today, stretching the budgets and resources of many nonprofit organizations whose services have been essential. We’ve all seen the images of vehicles and people waiting on food distribution lines just to receive enough food to feed their families for 3-5 days. For those fortunate enough not to have to wait in food lines, the desire to help has been illustrated by the millions of dollars being donate to America’s food banks and by record numbers of people willing to volunteer to help feed their neighbors in need.
In the past nine months, Long Island Cares has delivered 14,559,497 pounds of food that provided nearly 12 million meals for our neighbors in need. We’ve also seen 148,106 people visiting the food bank for the very first time due to COVID-19, with an additional 73,285 people visiting our five satellite locations, and our pet pantry in need of food assistance. Without an additional bailout for the states and counties so, businesses can recover and people can go back to work these numbers will continue to increase. In 1978, former President Jimmy Carter convened a Presidential Commission on Hunger that was proposed by Harry Chapin. Sadly, the recommendations made were never implemented by the incoming Reagan Administration and no administration since has implemented any long-term study on food insecurity. With the number on the rise, Long Island Cares has reached out to President-elect Joe Biden and his administration to pick-up the challenge by convening a new Presidential Commission on Food Insecurity to review existing programs, public and private national and international, which address food insecurity to develop recommendations to significantly reduce food insecurity and develop options to harness available resources including, a review of current policies that are effective in lifting people out of poverty. There is a need to conduct public hearings, issue reports and develop new projects for our nation to better understand why food insecurity is on the rise across all fifty states.
PAULE T. PACHTER, A.C.S.W., L.M.S.W.
Chief Executive Officer