EDITORIAL

CALARCO: Food insecurity is a huge issue in our community

Rob Calarco, Suffolk County Presiding Officer
Posted 7/23/20

Suffolk County enters its second week of Phase 4 under the New York Forward reopening plan, life is starting to return to a version of normal for many of us.

Yet for so many, life has been …

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EDITORIAL

CALARCO: Food insecurity is a huge issue in our community

Posted

Suffolk County enters its second week of Phase 4 under the New York Forward reopening plan, life is starting to return to a version of normal for many of us.

Yet for so many, life has been turned upside down during this pandemic, and the consequences are more than just inconvenience – they are serious. Many people have not returned to work because there is no job waiting for them. Others are facing overdue bills that continue to pile up. And many, especially those who were strapped financially before the COVID-19 crisis, are struggling to put food on the table.

Food insecurity has become a major concern facing our community. Thankfully, so many have stepped up to serve our neighbors who are struggling, and there are several different ways we can help each other during this difficult time.

Hunger is hardly a new issue for Long Island. In fact, Island Harvest, a major food distributer in our area, issued a report in 2018 warning about this issue persisting even during a time of relative prosperity for our region. At the time this report was released, our county’s unemployment rate stood at 3.3 percent. In May of this year, Suffolk County’s unemployment rate hit 12.4 percent. Our neighbors are hurting during this unprecedented crisis with more people than ever before seeking assistance from food pantries and other local charities. Data provided by Long Island Cares, an organization that assists with hunger relief, shows that about 300,000 Long Islanders receive emergency food assistance each year. During this pandemic, Long Island Cares has provided aid to 49,363 residents from March to May, an increase of 72.4 percent over the same period last year. Overall, they have found that food insecurity is up 20 percent across Long Island as more and more people seek assistance. Nearly 40 percent of those seeking emergency food assistance are children under the age of 18, and about 50 percent are working people who are choosing between paying the rent or buying food for themselves and their families.

In times of crisis, Suffolk County residents are known for banding together to help those in need. Suffolk County is stepping up to do our part to care for our neighbors by making it easier to connect food pantries with those most in need. If you are experiencing food insecurity, you can now dial 3-1-1, and the operator will connect you with a local food pantry, delivery service, or pop-up food distributor. Additionally, Suffolk County has launched a new program called Suffolk Cares in partnership with Long Island Cares. This program is for those who are in need of food but who do not have access to transportation. All you have to do is call 3-1-1, and once you are approved, a delivery of non-perishable food items will be dropped off at your residence, with no contact between you and the delivery person. The service is operating Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

For those who are able to donate, there are plenty of local food pantries that are accepting donations and are in need of your help. A list of those locations can be found next to this column. They are all worthy organizations that do excellent work in our community. Donations can include anything from traditional non-perishable canned food to a bag of potatoes. If you started a garden this year and have some fruits and vegetables to spare, pantries that are accepting fresh produce would love to have a portion of your backyard’s harvest. Anything that you are able to donate will go a long way in ending food insecurity and making the lives of your neighbors a little bit easier.

Food insecurity is not a new issue, but it is a growing one. During these unprecedented times of struggle and sacrifice, let us recognize the trials all of us are facing, whether it be physical, mental, or economic. With so many out of work due to this pandemic and new challenges on the horizon, we must remember the importance of community. Our neighbors are hurting, our friends are hurting, and our families are hurting. Suffolk County is stepping up to help out, but we can all play a part in easing this pain. Donating to a local food pantry is one way to help each other, whether you make that donation with your wallet or by using your green thumb.

Together as a community, we can put an end to food insecurity.

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