For those who have been laid off from their jobs or are simply struggling to provide meals for their children and families, food pantries on Long Island are looking to help people combat food insecurity during this time.
Island Harvest, a food bank whose mission is to end hunger and reduce food waste on Long Island, has been working tirelessly amid this pandemic to ensure that people don’t go hungry.
“The need has increased because people have lost their jobs or been furloughed and since school is out kids are home so they are eating more meals in the house,” Randi Shubin Dresner, president and CEO of Island Harvest Food Bank, said. “Even if families wanted to go to the supermarkets to purchase products, they don’t have full shelves, so it’s forcing people to look for other alternatives.”
On March 9, Island Harvest opened up their emergency resource center and began changing their business model from exclusively distributing to their network of nonprofit organizations to creating their own mobile food pantry distribution.
“We started to work with the community and other organizations so that we could provide as much assistance as possible,” Dresner said. “Under normal circumstances, we depend heavily on donated products from wholesalers and distributors but we changed that model almost instantaneously. We started a purchasing program and to date we have purchased about $600,000 of products so that we could make sure that we could get as much food out into the community as possible.”
The volunteers at Island Harvest have implemented certain protocols to ensure they are complying with social distancing and to ensure they are keeping themselves healthy during this time.
“We’ve put a lot of protocols into place right away,” Dresner said. “We separated the food from people in our building. We moved our staff around so we don’t have as many people in our facilities. When we are in the field doing our distribution all of our teams are wearing masks and gloves and we are keeping appropriate distance from each other. It has been a little complicated, but we have been able to put these special protocols into place.”
Unlike some food pantries, which require residents to provide necessary documentation, Island Harvest will distribute food to anyone who may need it, regardless of their financial or employment status. Island Harvest distributes food to more than 320 sites across Long Island, including nonprofit organizations, schools, community centers and veterans organizations.
“If you are asking for food, we give it to you and we won’t ask questions,” Dresner said. “There are no restrictions for us with our distribution. It’s very humbling to ask for food, particularly people that are not normally on the recipient side. Many of the people that are getting food now are people that were contributors or food donors in the past. We recognize how humbling it is to stand on a line and wait for food. We don’t ask questions. We trust that if you are there it’s because you need it. Quite frankly, the coronavirus is hitting so many people and will continue to hit so many people that we know that people will need it.”
Island Harvest is also accepting food donations as well as medical supplies, as long as the products are new and unopened.
“We except all kinds of donations as long as it’s new product,” Dresner said. “We are allowing food drives to happen again because we need donated food and household supplies so we can get it out to the communities.”
While the severity of the coronavirus pandemic might have surprised people on Long Island, Island Harvest has been preparing since early March for this pandemic to hit.
“We’re dealing with the crisis of hunger every single day, so we’re used to turning around on a dime when things change,” Dresner said. “We have answered the call for emergencies for all of our 30 years. This is obviously very different and so it’s hard to say that anybody could be prepared for this kind of pandemic. But even so we still have an emergency resource center and we opened it up the minute we could respond and help.”
Many school districts across Long Island are also providing grab-and-go breakfast and lunch during the week to students who may need food, without requiring them to provide any identification.
Island Harvest has been working with approximately 30 school districts across Nassau County to provide food for not only school aged children, but for their families, as well. Residents can check with their local school district to see if this food program is being offered in their area.
Island Harvest is also offering mobile home delivery for the elderly, veterans or those who have a compromised immune systems and may be unable to go out. Additionally, Island Harvest has been working with Nassau County and the Department of Health to deliver food to those who are in quarantine due to COVID-19.
“If we’re doing home deliveries, we will bring the product to the front door, ring the bell, go back to the car and give them a call to make sure they know that the food is there,” Dresner said. “When we do community distributions we have the product ready and we do drive troughs so no body has to get out of their car.”
On the North Shore
North Shore Food Help (NOSH), a community-based organization founded to support food insecurity in the area safely and responsibly during the outbreak of coronavirus has been helping to organize food drives for those in the Glen Cove, Sea Cliff and Locust Valley areas.
NOSH has been working closely with Long Island Cares, a comprehensive hunger assistance organization, which serves individuals and families in need to distribute canned goods.
“Long Island Cares is also operating satellite locations including, its own emergency food pantries at several community locations. The public is encouraged to visit the location closest to them if they are in need of food. To insure the safety of our staff and our limited number of volunteers, our satellite centers will serve six families at a time and limit the number of people in our waiting rooms,” their website states.
To Donate or Receive Food
Residents who are interested in mobile food delivery will need to call or email Long Island Cares for a phone assessment 631-582-3663 ext. 109 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Long Island Cares asks that residents wait approximately 24-48 hours for a response. To stay up to date with Long Island Cares and their protocols regarding COVID-19 visit, www.licares.org/uncategorized/long-island-cares-covid-19-updates.
To contact Island Harvest, call 631-873-4775 or visit www.islandharvest.org.
For a full list of food pantries in your area, visit www.licares.org or islandharvest.org. Residents should call the food pantry ahead of time to confirm hours of operation and to ensure that proper protocols are taken to maintain the safety of the volunteers and the community.