Over the past several years, the number of Rocklanders going hungry has increased.
“We’ve seen a significant increase. In 2008 we were helping about 500 families a month. Last month it was over 1,200 families a month,” said Diane Serratore, executive director of People to People.
"One of the things that is very frustrating in this wealthy suburban county is getting across to folks that there is hunger and a lack of food for many people," said Scott Vanderhoef, county executive. "It has spiked in the last several years. Rockland County has pockets of poverty and has people going hungry."
September is National Hunger Awareness Month and Vanderhoef kicked it off on Thursday by proclaiming that Sept 9 - 15 is Hunger Awareness & Action Week in Rockland County.
To step up efforts to raise awareness of the issue of hunger, local groups have stepped up with events and activies to promote it. Groups include Catholic Community Services, Good Samaritan Hospital, , United Way of Rockland, County of Rockland Department of Social Services and community collaboratives in Haverstraw, Spring Valley, Nyack and Western Ramapo.
The purpose of the Hunger Awareness Week campaign is to:
- Bring heightened awareness to the issue of hunger and how it is affecting individuals and families.
- Educate the community at-large about existing programs and efforts to address hunger in Rockland County.
- Directly increase support to local food pantries and feeding programs, which continually serve individuals and families in Rockland County.
“We all expected a bump when the recession hit, but nobody expected it to be this severe,” said Joe Allen, president of People to People Board of Directors.
Vanderhoef said that although people contribute to food pantries, monetary donations go a lot farther. Sister Fran Gorsuch of Good Samaritan Hospital added that $1 will feed four families and that families.
A $1 donation to certain food pantries can generate $6-7 worth of food because these pantries are members of the Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York, which allows them to purchase food at a greatly reduced cost, said Serratore.
“We’re calling on all pantries to work together and help each other. There will be a lot of different activities throughout the county," said Serratore. "The food collected through all these efforts will then be distributed out to all the food pantries in the community.”
Several Hunger Awareness & Action Week activities are in the planning stages and more will follow:
- Monday, Sept 10—Spring Valley Mayor Normanie F. Jasmin is hosting a Hunger Awareness & Action Forum for village faith-based leaders from 10 - 11:30 a.m. at the Darden Community Center in Spring Valley.
- Monday, Sept 10—Nyack Mayor Jen White, Nyack Center Executive Director Kim Cross and Serratore are hosting a breakfast for elected, civic and community leaders from 8:30 - 10 a.m. at the Nyack Center
- Monday, Sept 10—Haverstraw Center Executive Director Marion Breland-Oswald, along with Haverstraw Supervisor Howard Phillips Jr., Mayor Michael Kohut, West Haverstraw Mayor John Ramundo are hosting a "Soup and Bread Lunch" at 12 noon at the Haverstraw Community Center.
- Tuesday, Sept 11—United Way Volunteer Action Center is deploying volunteers to area food pantries includign Catholic Community Services and People to People on this National Day of Service.
- Thursday, Sept. 13—Stuff A Bus—A Rockland County Bus will be situated in front of the County Office Building in New City from 9 a.m. - noon and them moved to the county complex in Pomona to be filled with food donated by county workers that same day from 1 - 3 p.m.
- Friday, Sept. 14—Informational flyers on "how to help" area food pantries during the coming months will be distributed at Blue Hill Plaza in Pearl River.
- Food Collections — Food collection efforts will take place at all town and participating village halls and at corporate sites.
Rockland County food pantries and feeding programs that would like to benefit from any and all Hunger Awareness & Action Week activities must be accredited by the Food Bank of the Hudson Valley and must register with Hunger Awareness & Action Week coordinators.
“We are pleased to announce the first annual Rockland County Hunger Awareness Week campaign will take place September 9-15, 2012,” said Vanderhoef. “It is estimated that 20,000 residents of Rockland County turn to local food pantries for support every month. We are especially hoping that during this week special efforts will be made to increase support for local food pantries and feeding programs.”
How To Help
- Retail stores, local businesses, corporate parks, etc. can hold food collections.
- Civic and community groups can hold food drives at local supermarkets or collect coins to donate to a food pantry or feeding program that assist area residents.
- Rockland residents of all ages can volunteer at local food pantries or feeding programs.
- Restaurants can place coin collection canisters on tables to encourage diners to donate their change to help feed Rockland’s hungry.
For more information about how to support OR to register to benefit from Hunger Awareness & Action Week efforts, please contact:
- Ron Figueroa at Ron.Figueroa@dfa.state.ny.us
- Sister Fran Gorsuch at Fran_Gorsuch@bshsi.org
- Martha Robles at Martha.Robles@archny.org
- Diane Serratore at email@example.com
- Dana Treacy at firstname.lastname@example.org
"Working in these communities, I see people helping each other in very simple ways," said Figueroa, Community Resources Coordinator for the Department of Social Services. "This is something that everyone—children, adults, students can get involved in." He added that http://www.informationrockland.com/ allows residents to search for pantries nearest them allowing them to "connect with others at a neighborhood level."
Martha Robles, executive director for Catholic Community Services of Rockland asked for people to expand their idea of who they stereotypically think of when it comes to those looking to food pantries for help.
“Don’t think that the people who are hungry are the people who are poor or vulnerable. It’s our neighbors. It’s the people living right next door to us that we don’t even know about,” she said.