Soup Kitchens, Food Pantries Help Storm Victims While Struggling, Too

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The Food Bank for New York City distributes emergency food to pantries and soup kitchens across the city and says since Sandy hit its delivered half a million meals to affected areas. But it's questioning how long it can keep up the pace.

The storm hit at a time when the organization was seeing a drop in government funding and an increase in demand from people who never recovered from the recession, said Food Bank President Margarette Purvis. "Sandy hit us at a time when we were not at our best." 

Purvis said this year alone, the organization received 11 million fewer meals because of fewer resources from the federal government.  A report by the Food Bank also points out that since 2007, the number of food pantries and soup kitchens has shrunk from 989 to 742, a 25 percent reduction.

Additionally, several food pantries and soup kitchens in Coney Island, the Rockaways and Staten Island were destroyed by Sandy, leaving neighboring organizations to fill in the gaps, while still serving the low income New Yorkers who've come to rely on them for food assistance.

Reverend Melony Samuels is director of BedStuy Campaign Against Hunger in central Brooklyn. She said her food pantry has been using rental cars to deliver meals to Coney Island and Far Rockaway, but questions how long that can last.

"We cannot continue to rent vans and U-Hauls," Samuels said. "We don't have the resources to do so."

With Thanksgiving around the corner, Samuels said the group is also lacking about 1,000 turkeys for storm victims, as well as gas money.  The Yorkville Common Pantry in East Harlem said it was also short $30,000 for turkeys. Director Stephen Grimaldi said the group would cover the cost and deal with the shortage next year.

After Sandy, the government did respond by allowing the organization to tap into food supplies that had been set aside for future months. Private donations also increased significantly. But the Food Bank says not all the food donations were appropriate for families with no way to cook.