Food banks, soup kitchens and emergency food pantries across the country are gearing up for what has always been the busiest time of the year as we prepare for Thanksgiving, and then the December holidays. The one uncertainly looming over most of us is, what impact will the COVID-19 pandemic have on people’s ability to give to charities this year when so many businesses have closed, thousands have lost their jobs, and people are still getting sick in record numbers. This is the time of year when many individuals and businesses on Long Island are thinking about ways to help those in need, donate to their favorite charities, and are generally in a giving spirit. There are literally thousands of nonprofit charitable organizations throughout Long Island that are well deserving of your support, and I hope that as you read this column you’ll think about supporting those causes that are near and dear to you and your family.
Prior to COVID-19, I reported that there had been a decrease in the overall number of Long Islanders described as being food insecure, as per Feeding America’s “Map the Meal Gap” report. The numbers of people struggling with food insecurity in our region dropped last year from 272,000 to 259,000 or 4.8%. What that means for Long Island is that some people may not require the services of our emergency food network. Last year, with unemployment at its lowest numbers in decades, more people found employment and improved their ability to be more self-sufficient. Move forward to March of 2020, and the COVID-19 pandemic turned everything around with an additional 112,000 now joining the ranks of Long Island’s food insecure population. As we enter the holiday season there are now approximately 371,000 people relying on our region’s emergency food network for some of their meals. This is a 43.2% increase in food insecurity when compared to 2019. We also know that that the number of people accessing Long Island Cares’ five community-based satellite locations increased to 60,441 this year which represents an increase of 89% over last year due to unemployment and the overall impact of COVID-19. We also see increases in the number of seniors participating in the Meals on Wheels program, and our own Mobile School Pantry program that provides weekend food for children in the Brentwood School District and the Riverhead School District. Since March, nearly 15,000 seniors have received home delivery of food through Long Island Cares. As the need for emergency food assistance increases we’re also seeing people more frequently visiting our pantries and soup kitchens, with the average increase at approximately 40%, and there is concern for families to share in the offerings of the holidays during the pandemic.
There are too many children, seniors, Veterans, homeless, disabled, immigrants, and others living in poverty and even 200% above poverty in our region, and many of them deserve your support this holiday season and throughout the year. Long Islanders have a very rich history of giving. This was very clear in 1980 when Harry Chapin founded Long Island Cares as the first food bank in our region, and it continues today, forty years later when private donations to our organization account for a significant percentage of our annual budget.
So, will you help provide a holiday meal to our neighbors in need this year? Of course you will, and you can do it by visiting your local food pantry, soup kitchen, senior center, Head Start program, mental health treatment program, Veterans Services agency, LGBTQ program, drug treatment and rehabilitation program, day care center, disabilities day habilitation program, special education school, or going online to: www.unitedwayli.org, www.guidestar.org, www.charitynavigator.org, which is also where you can find more information about our local nonprofit charities, including Long Island Cares-The Harry Chapin Food Bank. Let’s make the holidays happy for our families, and another family who might be in need.
PAULE T. PACHTER, A.C.S.W., L.M.S.W.
Chief Executive Officer