A City in Recovery

Damage from Hurricane Sandy in Far Rockaway

by Angela Ebron

January 20, 2013 – It’s been three months since Hurricane Sandy struck and many parts of the City are still recovering. Times were tough for millions of New York City residents before October 29—in fact, one in three of them was having difficulty putting food on the table—and things only got worse after Sandy. Tens of thousands of New Yorkers suddenly found themselves without a place to call home or a job to go to in the morning. They turned to Food Bank For New York City for food, assistance getting replacement or disaster food stamps, and other resources to help them get back on their feet. Unfortunately, many of them in areas like Staten Island, Far Rockaway, Red Hook and other stricken communities still depend on our programs and services—as do the 1.5 million New York City residents who were relying on us every day before the disaster.

Today, three months into the recovery, it’s clear that it will be many more months—or even years—before Sandy’s damage is undone. But communities will rebuild. People will come together to help one another. And Food Bank will continue to provide assistance, despite the fact that we have 25 percent fewer pantries and soup kitchens than we did just five years ago.

Our “standing routes” will ensure that we get the job done. Within days of the storm, Food Bank had set up standing delivery routes to get disaster loads of emergency food and supplies to members of our network that were still up-and-running, as well as to new on-the-ground partners who could help distribute food, like schools and churches. Now, with these routes in place, Food Bank can provide much more food to Sandy victims for the long haul.

People can also turn to our campus pantries to get much-needed food. Food Bank has established disaster food pantries in several schools in heavily-impacted areas as part of our campus pantry program, which provides elementary and college students—and by extension, their families—with access to emergency food.

Thanks to funding from partners such as the American Red Cross and the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City, we’ll be able to distribute 2.9 million more pounds of food as well—enough for 2.4 million meals. To help get that food to folks in the hardest hit communities, plus help them access SNAP (food stamps) and provide them with free tax assistance, Food Bank will also be investing in two Wi-Fi accessible mobile disaster response centers.

Lastly, Food Bank will continue to provide grants to our network of food pantries and soup kitchens serving affected areas—a network that has been doing more with less for far too long due to federal spending cuts and a depletion of resources. Cash grants, which we’ve been giving out since Hurricane Sandy hit, help member programs cover storm-related expenses, while food grants enable programs to replenish their diminished supply.

These strategies are just the first step. We know that as the recovery moves forward, people’s needs may change and new challenges may crop up. And the Food Bank is ready to respond.

Angela Ebron is Food Bank For New York City’s writer and editor.