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Hempstead Town awards $2M to open pop-up food banks

Long Island Cares says the number of hungry

Long Island Cares says the number of hungry families is skyrocketing. Credit: James Carbone

Hempstead Town on Tuesday awarded $2 million that it received in federal stimulus aid to Long Island Cares to feed an increasing number of hungry families.

The grant will fund 14 pop-up food banks throughout Hempstead operated by Long Island Cares, using a piece of $133 million in economic help the town received to cover expenses incurred during the coronavirus pandemic.

The first four food banks will open in Baldwin, Elmont, Inwood and Roosevelt, where Long Island Cares will distribute 20-pound emergency food boxes twice a week that can each feed a family of six. The boxes will include milk, juice, fresh produce when possible and pet food as needed, town officials said.

Town Supervisor Don Clavin said Long Island Cares has seen a 64% increase in demand at food banks Islandwide, and the new distribution centers could open within the next week or two.

“Nobody in our town will go hungry because of the hardships they have experienced due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said. “Between many of our residents losing their jobs and the grocery stores struggling to meet demand, this funding will keep our food banks stocked for the next couple of months.”

Long Island Cares chief executive Paule Pachter said the funding will go to buy food, hire 31 temporary workers, and rent and drive refrigerated trucks.

"Hempstead Town is the largest in the United States and probably has the highest per capita of people living at the poverty line than anywhere else on Long Island," Pachter said.

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Hempstead applied for the $133 million grant through Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) based on the town’s population of 800,000, which is more than half of Nassau County's population of 1.3 million. The funding is designed for any nonbudgeted COVID-19 expenses through Dec. 30.

"These funds can be used to pay for coronavirus expenses, including our public front-line first responders and health care workers,” Schumer spokesman Angelo Roefaro said.

Hempstead was the only town in the country to receive federal funding because it met the population threshold of more than 500,000. Suffolk County received $257.6 million, and New York City received $1.4 billion.

The town is consulting with Nassau County — which received $103 million of its own in federal stimulus aid — on how the funding should be spent.

Nassau is using $500,000 in federal Housing and Urban Development grants to support Long Island's other large food bank, Island Harvest, and is assisting Long Island Cares with storefront locations.

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said she wants to ensure the funding is used this year for coronavirus-related expenses, such as police, medics, firefighters, the county Department of Health and the county morgue. Any unused funding this year would be returned to the state.

"My goal is to make sure this money is spent to help us recover from the pandemic," Curran said.

The funding cannot be used to cover lost budget revenue and can be clawed back by the federal government if not spent properly. Clavin has formed an economic advisory committee that includes Long Island Association president Kevin Law; Hofstra University president Stuart Rabinowitz; attorney Joe Belluck; former state Sen. Charles Fuschillo Jr., who is president of the Alzheimer’s Association of America; town doctor David Neubert; and leaders of the Long Island Federation of Labor and the Builders institute.

Clavin said the funding could be used to purchase personal protective equipment and upgrading town facilities, such as no-touch bathrooms for disease control. The town also will look at whether the funding can be used for small-business assistance, colleges and universities.

Residents can visit licares.org or call 631-582-3663 for more information on food distribution times and locations.

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