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Food Bank For New York City Helps Soup Kitchens and Food Pantries Keep Their Doors Open After Hurricane Sandy


Soup kitchens and food pantries all over New York City are trying to keep up with demand following Hurricane Sandy. After the storm ripped through the city, upending the lives of thousands of residents, emergency food providers were one of the few established places people could turn for meals. But like the very people they were trying to help, a significant number of Food Bank For New York City’s member agencies found themselves in the same dire situation. They suffered power outages and lost massive amounts of food due to flooding. In truly decimated areas, such as Staten Island, some food pantries and soup kitchens lost everything. Before, during and after the storm, the Food Bank continued to distribute food and much-needed supplies to those areas heavily affected by Hurricane Sandy, as well as communities across the city.

Food Bank has taken several steps to help our member agencies survive this catastrophe. Our efforts started with phone calls and emails to our member network. Next, to better assess how sites fared during the storm, we posted an online survey to gauge the situation: What damage had they suffered? How was their food supply? What services did they need? Thirty-three percent of our member agencies were able to respond to our survey, and one in five of them reported power outages, food and equipment losses due to flooding, structural damage and other issues.

Getting feedback from a third of our network was a good start, but we knew that it was just a snapshot of the situation. To get the full picture, Food Bank staffers worked the phones again, contacting as many soup kitchens and food pantries as possible to inform them of the survey and have them take it by phone in some cases. We also alerted them to our new emergency member services number. Our entire programs team, along with volunteers, visited many members who were unable to be reached by phone, text or email, especially in high-need areas like Coney Island, to talk to them firsthand. We also checked Facebook to see if any sites had managed to post updates.

The consensus was clear: Sites that were still operational needed food, including non-perishables.
As one food pantry in the Bronx told us, “We have an overflow of people because of Hurricane Sandy. Please send more of everything!” And as a Bronx soup kitchen put it, “More and more people are coming in and we’re struggling to feed them.” About 17% of sites that were scheduled to be open during the storm did, in fact, open their doors. And many that had to suspend operations were open a few days later, ready to serve their communities.

Our members were used to ordering food online, but our system was down temporarily due to the storm. To ensure that orders and deliveries were made, Food Bank set up a temporary ordering website. Sites that could access the Internet used the temporary system to inform us of their food needs. Some sites were able to arrange deliveries by cell phone. And those members who were already scheduled to receive a delivery in the days immediately following Sandy—and were operational enough to receive it—got the food they were expecting. Because Food Bank’s Warehouse Distribution Center has been up and running every day since the storm, we were able to fulfill all outstanding and new orders.

In addition to food, member agencies also requested diapers, toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap and other personal care items. Food Bank has been able to deliver them to the sites that need them most. Another request was for volunteers to unload the delivery trucks, distribute food and help with post-storm clean-up. People across the city are eager to lend a hand to their neighbors during this time of crisis. In addition to placing volunteers with sites impacted by Hurricane Sandy, Food Bank is also assigning them to help out at our Community Kitchen & Food Pantry of West Harlem and at our warehouse in the Bronx. To find out how you can help, visit www.foodbanknyc.org, @foodbank4nyc, or facebook.com/foodbanknyc.

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