Almost as soon as the order to shift restaurants to takeout only, both waitstaff and kitchen workers’ jobs were in peril. They were not alone. In a region dependent on the service economy, when demand drops to near zero, so too does the income many East End residents need to get by. This means the most acute humanitarian need right now is food. Without a clear prospect for returning to work, many will need help just getting by. Mortgages can wait. Taxes are not due until July. But people need to be fed at a time when seasonal workers’ budgets may already have been stretched to the limit.
In response, the region’s supplemental food programs and meals for students and senior citizens have been increased. At the East Hampton Food Pantry, the timing of distributions jumped from once a month to twice a month. To fulfill its mission, it and the other food pantries need cash more than anything else. Information about making contributions in East Hampton is available at easthamptonfoodpantry.org. In Southampton Town, contact can be made through heartofthehamptons.org. One can also go to montaukfoodpantry.org and springsfoodpantry.org.
Panic shopping for staples in excess of what one actually needs should be discouraged. If members of vulnerable populations do venture out to the supermarkets, it is important that they be able to find what they need on the shelves so as not to risk multiple trips and a greater chance of virus exposure.
Another way to help that might be less obvious is ordering take-out meals from the otherwise dormant restaurants and food shops. Workers in these, especially those for whom tips are a big part of their income, may directly benefit. Ordering meals to go also can even out gaps in the food supply and be a bit of an antidote for the hoarding impulse.
Keeping people fed and healthy in this time of need is an obligation we all share.