In the last six months, the Long Island Council of Churches emergency food pantry program has given out more than 300,000 meals, which is more than it did for all of 2019.
LICC officials said the spike was caused by the pandemic as Long Islanders lost their income through the deaths of family providers and the economic shutdown, but while things slowly return to normal as Long Island reopens, the food pantry is still busy feeding more than 12,000 people a month.
As the pantry’s funding from Nassau County dries up, without word of whether or not the county would renew their usual $30,000 grant, Northrop Grumman - the aerospace and defense technology company that operates in Bethpage - has stepped up and donated $5,000 to the pantry on July 23.
“We are extremely thankful for all of the blessings and the continued support in our ministry to those that we serve and the generosity of Northrup Grumman,” said Deacon Anthony Achong, director of administration and operations for LICC. “ We are seeing an increase of those we are serving as the demand with those suffering from food insecurity grows during this unprecedented pandemic. [Grumman’s] support allows us to continue in serving our neighbors in need.”
When the pandemic initially began in March, Yolanda Murray, the food pantry manager, said people were wary about going into the pantry because of Covid-19. The pantry, which normally served about 75 people a day, was only seeing half that amount, but then the number soared to more than 200 by June.
Murray said the surge hit the food pantry hard as fellow employees and volunteers worked around the clock to help fill food carts for those in need. She added that the past few months have also taken an emotional toll.
“Some people come in who’ve lost the job they’ve had for 30 years and are struggling to pay their mortgage or rent, and you’re right there crying along with them and hearing their struggles,” Murray said.
The desperate need at the food pantry is what pushed Murray and Achong to look for grants as they wait to hear on whether or not they’ll receive the county’s funding, which has changed the way it distributes grants because of the pandemic.
The $5,000 from Northrup Grumman will help the pantry buy food past August.
Emergency federal and local monies, along with a large donation from Mary and Rob Hallam’s annual food drive, has helped the pantry through the pandemic, but Murray said funding from the county would be essential for the food pantry to continue serving those in need.
The yearly $30,000 the pantry has gotten from the county allows them to operate for six months through the fall and winter.
Regardless, Murray said the LICC would look into other grants available to them in the meantime to help pay for food and expenses.
“We want people to stay strong and know that we’ll be there to support them through these difficult times,” Murray said. “It’s not their fault they’re going through this, and people need to know that it’s okay to look for help.”
Those interested in donating to the LICC emergency food pantry program can contact the pantry at (516)-565-0290, or visit http://www.licc-ny.org/donate.html.