Food insecurity on Long Island increases nearly 50% since start of pandemic

LONG ISLAND, New York (WABC) -- Food banks on Long Island are reporting a nearly 50% increase in their food distribution since the start of the pandemic.

"When we have to double our work, it means that there are probably double, if not more, the number of people out in the community who are struggling," said Randi Shubin Dresner, with Island Harvest.

Island Harvest reports a 47% increase in its food distribution and has helped 300,000 families since March.

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Its home delivery program helped 1,000 people in the Town of Hempstead.

Shubin Dresner said Island Harvest also enrolled 2,000 families in the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

Those with Long Island Cares said they provided emergency food assistance to 128,000 Long Islanders who never needed food before. The organization reports a 43% increase in food insecurity.

"It is amazing the relief that is needed just in Nassau and Suffolk Counties alone," said Peter Braglia, with Long Island Cares.

At the Marriott in Uniondale, they're offering a team-building activity to companies who book conferences at the hotel which involves a race to pack bags of food for Long Island Cares' 'Pack-It-Up-For-Kids' program.
Huntington High School senior Alexa Rind had the idea.

"I thought that this would be a really great way to tie in with the corporate world and the hotel industry," Rind said.

The Marriott purchases the food. After the competition, the bags of food are given to those with Long Island Cares who then distribute the bags to students who may need food over the weekend.

Kerry Tooker, a Child Nutrition Program Specialist with Long Island Cares, said the Marriott program is incredibly helpful because Long Island Cares typically has to purchase food for the Pack-It-Up-For-Kids program, if they are unable to get grant money.

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"There are a lot of children suffering from hunger and what they don't have available to them is a nutritious meal over the weekend," Tooker said.

Hilda Garvey is Senior Vice-President of Marriott's managing company, Blue Sky Hospitality Solutions.

Garvey said Blue Sky Hospitality hopes to roll out similar food-packing donation competitions at its hotels across the country.

"It's really hard to see families struggling," Garvey said.

Stop and Shop also donated on Thursday, 2,000 turkeys to Island Harvest and Long Island Cares so they can distribute them to people for Thanksgiving.

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