The coronavirus pandemic has left millions of families without stable employment. According to nonprofit food charity Feeding America, more than 54 million people – including 18 million children – may experience food insecurity this year.
“While many are able to work from home, many have lost their jobs and been furloughed. The food insecurity just grows,” St. Mark’s Episcopal Church rector, the Rev. Richard Simpson, said. “The number of unemployed New Yorkers has skyrocketed since the pandemic.”
Some food pantries, Islip Rotary Club president Astrid Fidelia said, are struggling to keep up.
To tackle the growing number of impoverished Long Islanders at a safe, 6-foot distance, St. Mark’s is partnering with the Islip Rotary this month for the church’s monthly outdoor drive-by food drive Saturday, Nov. 7.
The food dropoff at St. Mark’s on Montauk Highway will run from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Donators are encouraged to remain in their cars – rotary volunteers will collect any nonperishable food items and toiletries and do the heavy lifting. Masks and are required and social-distancing protocols must be followed, as per New York State orders.
Simpson, a Rotary member for roughly 30 years, said that prior to the pandemic, church-goers brought in donations weekly, providing a steady stream of donations.
When the pandemic hit and residents were forced to isolate, St. Mark’s started the drive-by food dropoff to ensure the community continued to receive donations. Simpson credited Irene Ross, church and Rotary member, with the idea to join the organizations together for the food drive this month.
“You can really tell that people want to help,” Ross said. “It really seems like car after car would pull up to donate.”
All food will be donated to God’s Provisions Inc., an organization that distributes to food
pantries throughout Suffolk County including Amityville, the Islips, Bay Shore, Patchogue,
Quogue, Huntington Station, Dix Hills and more. St. Mark’s has been partnering with God’s Provisions for nearly 20 years.
Children are one of the largest groups struggling with food insecurity, Simpson said.
“For children, sometimes the only meals they get are free breakfast and lunch at school,” Simpson said. “But what happens when there's no school?... The need is great, and we’re trying to do what we can.”
Last month, the episcopal church filled a full-size Ford Club van to the roof with pastas, soups, toiletries and more, Simpson said. One of the first times they hosted a food drive, volunteers filled six minivans with deliveries. Other organizations also do drive-by food collection, he said.
“This goes way beyond just St. Mark’s giving. We've seen people from across Islip helping out,” he said, “and it's a convenient way to do it.”
Community members are encouraged to donate. To volunteer, call the St. Mark’s Episcopal Church office at 631-581-4950 and ask for Irene.