For nine years, Rob and Mary Hallam, members of the Community Presbyterian Church in Malverne, have held a food drive from their Lynbrook home for people in need. It usually takes place in February and March, and the collection is donated to the Long Island Council of Churches’ food pantry in Freeport, which serves more than 2,500 people a month from across Nassau County.
The Hallams had planned to join about 200 volunteers this Saturday for “moving day,” when the collection is sent by a Nassau Window & Door truck to the pantry. The coronavirus outbreak, however, forced them to delay those plans.
“We’re kind of at a standstill at the moment,” Rob said. “The only thing we do know for sure is that there’s going to be a greater demand at the food pantry.”
Need is still here
Yolanda Murray, 58, the Long Island Council of Churches food pantry manager, said federal funding for the pantry usually runs out by the end of March, so it needs donations to feed the hungry this spring.
The pantry normally serves 75 people a day, but that number has dropped in half because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The need for food remains, but people are afraid to leave their homes, Murray said, adding that demand for food rose after schools closed earlier this month.
The LICC is allowing only five people at a time to enter the pantry to ensure social distancing. “We’re now seeing people from other places that go to a regular church pantry, but now they’re closed down, too,” Murray said.
Rob explained that older-adult volunteers run many pantries, and because they are more susceptible to the coronavirus, they are staying home.
“We’re sanitizing three times a day, so once they come to the door, they feel comfortable because they smell how clean it is,” Murray said of the pantry.
Murray and Anthony Achong, LICC’s director of administration, urged anyone who feels sick to call the pantry and list all needed items so a pantry employee or volunteer can fill a cart and meet the person outside.
The pantry needs donations of cereal, soup and personal hygiene products.
To reach the pantry, call (516) 565-0290.
‘The People’s Food Drive’
The food drive, Rob Hallam explained, started small in 2011 at the Community Presbyterian Church in Malverne. That first year, the Hallams collected about 980 food items.
Over the years, hundreds of residents and several local businesses got involved. Last year, the drive collected more than 20,000 donations of food and money.
“It’s amazing to have seen it grow so much,” Hallam said. “There were so many people helping out last year that I got asked, ‘Just whose food drive is this?’ But this doesn’t belong to any one entity. This is the People’s Food Drive.”
Rob Maeurer, 43, of Elmont, met the Hallams three years ago at Community Presbyterian. Last year, Maeurer created a GoFundMe page for the People’s Drive that raised $530. It went to purchase food. This year, the GoFundMe raised nearly $3,500.
“I figured that there would be people who wanted to give but may not be able to go out to the drop-off locations,” Maeurer said.
Donations allow LICC to purchase food during the pandemic, Hallam said. Separately, he also raised $4,000 with a 50/50 raffle, which will go to purchase an industrial refrigerator for the pantry.
Hallam said he is concerned about people with low incomes. “Most of the people that utilize the food pantry are working people,” he said. “But a lot of these people are going paycheck to paycheck. Any disruption in their paycheck, they’ve got to decide what to pay for.
Hallam said he hopes “moving day” will take place April 25, but if not, he is prepared to move the food collection discretely.