The food supply is abundant, East Hampton Town Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc told his colleagues at Friday's special meeting of the town board, but so is the need at the town's food pantries, which are serving more residents amid the shutdown of commercial activity brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Food pantries are accepting monetary donations but not food, Mr. Van Scoyoc said. "There's been a definite uptick among the food pantry requests and clients, given this situation," he said from his office in Town Hall, his colleagues participating via videoconference. "Food pantries are rising to the occasion, we're giving them the support they need. . . . I know there have been several large donations and many small ones. This is a time for us all to come together, to help everyone in need."
Many residents found themselves abruptly unemployed, their work place shuttered indefinitely following Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's March 20 New York State on PAUSE executive order that closed all non-essential businesses as of March 22. "We have plenty of resources in our community," Mr. Van Scoyoc said. "We need to bring them to bear so everyone can get through this and be whole."
The cessation of public assembly has worsened the situation in that fund-raisers have been postponed or cancelled. The East Hampton Food Pantry's second annual Ladles of Love benefit was to take place on Friday night at the Stephen Talkhouse in Amagansett. It has been postponed. "It was a great, fun event last year," Mr. Van Scoyoc said. "We raised a lot of money for the food pantries. . . . I hope everybody considers that, and will take time, reach in their pocket, and give what they can give."
"It goes without saying," Councilwoman Kathee Burke-Gonzalez said, that that food pantries are operating "on overdrive." The Springs Food Pantry, she said, had 227 family visits and served 778 people in March 2019. "This month they had 376 family visits serving 1,375 people, with 49 new registrations. That's an increase of 77 percent."
She read from an email received from the Springs Food Pantry last Thursday: "We are running through our funds like mad. We have not cut back on what we offer people. . . . With the influx of families needing food and because of higher food prices, we are spending over double what we spent last year at this time. It will be nearly impossible to sustain what we are doing for more than five or six weeks, and then we will have spent our entire year's budget." She repeated Mr. Van Scoyoc's call for monetary donations.
The Human Services Department had distributed an average of 105 frozen meals on each of the past five days, via delivery or curbside pickup at the senior citizens center on Springs-Fireplace Road in East Hampton, Ms. Burke-Gonzalez said. "We're doing grocery shopping for those seniors that need it and runs to the drug store for prescriptions."
The Clamshell Foundation and East End Cares have partnered to launch the $5 for Food campaign to provide emergency relief to the East Hampton, Springs, Sag Harbor, and Montauk food pantries. Tax-deductible donations can be made at clamshellfoundation.org.
The town is maintaining a list of those offering to volunteer and is coordinating with East End Cares to merge with its own list. Those wishing to volunteer have been asked to call Ms. Burke-Gonzalez's office at 631-324-3187 or send an email to [email protected]. Those seeking assistance can use the same email address. "Our folks are working hard, the community has just been very generous, and everyone's been very patient," she said. "We will persevere. We're Bonac strong."