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Demand for food aid prevalent but stabilizing on Long Island, report says

On Monday, April 24, 2017, Long Island Cares held a news conference to provide an in-depth analysis of what's going on in the emergency food network. The organization, which distributes nearly 7 million pounds of food each year, will be moving from primarily providing emergency food to people in need to the area of direct service programs for high-risk and vulnerable populations. Credit: Newsday / Jeffrey Basinger

Demand for services at Long Island food pantries and soup kitchens remains prevalent although it has begun to stabilize in recent years, according to a survey released Monday of community service providers.

The 2016 report by regional food bank Long Island Cares found that 76 percent of the groups saw growing demand for services from 2012 and 2015. That’s down from 90 percent of respondents who reported growing demand from 2009 to 2012, the last time the group did a survey.

The report said many Long Islanders are still feeling the effects from the Great Recession.

“Long Island is recovering, but more slowly than we all would like,” according to the report.

Nearly 85 percent of reporting agencies have not had to turn people away or resort to rationing because of lack of food. In 2012, nearly 51 percent of agencies reported that there was a shortfall of food to meet increased demand.

“Hunger is still prevalent here in Nassau and Suffolk County, but we’re able to meet the needs,” Paule Pachter, chief executive officer of Long Island Cares, said at a news conference Monday. Pachter’s agency provides food to 570 churches, food pantries, shelters and soup kitchens.

Food pantries are becoming less of a place that people turn to in emergencies and more of a regular source of meat, vegetables and other food, he said.

“They’re relying on the pantries as a quasi-grocery store or supermarket,” he said. He said a number of people on Long Island are underemployed — making less than they did before the economic downturn in 2008.

Long Island Cares conducted its first Capacity and Distribution Survey Report in 2009 to measure the ability of agencies to serve the hungry. It released an update in 2013. Sixty-two percent of service providers responded to the most recent survey.

Most service providers at the news conference said they were seeing demand for food, clothing and other goods grow.

Kathy Bennett, president of Bay Shore food pantry Pronto of Long Island, said that since November the nonprofit has seen a decrease in families coming for food and vaccinations for children. She attributed the drop to fears of deportation in immigrant communities.

“They’re afraid to come out,” she said.

The survey also found a growing number of organizations saying they lacked volunteers or staff to expand. Forty-two percent cited the lack of volunteers or staff as their biggest barrier to expansion, compared to 22 percent in 2013.

The number of groups citing inadequate food to expand dropped from 46 percent in 2012 to 25 percent this year.


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