BY BARRY WARNER
Hunger in Rockland County has long been a hidden problem, something not often talked about. However, since the economic slump of the last few years the issue of having enough to eat is creeping back into the mainstream.
“There are more than 35,000 Rockland residents who are food insecure and one in five children who live in poverty,” said Rockland County Executive Scott Vanderhoef during October’s “Hunger Summit.”
Vanderhoef also said the number of people receiving assistance through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), has increased 46 percent over the last two years. According to Vanderhoef it is estimated that 20,000 people turn to local pantries and feeding programs each month for help.
Diane Serratore, executive director of People to People, said so far this year the number of people coming to them for help putting food on the table has increased drastically.
“Hunger in the county is increasing, as we had 85 new families come to us in September and more than 100 new families came in October,” said Serratore. “The number of people seeking assistance with food rose to 1,200 per month this year and it is critical to make sure that kids get fed.”
Serratore says that People to People is planning to distribute Thanksgiving meals to nearly 200 families this year. Each meal will provide turkey with all the fixings. So they are currently asking for donations of items, such as instant potatoes and stuffing, canned corn, cranberry sauce, turkey gravy, cornbread mix, plus piecrust mix and filling.
The nonprofit group Soup Angels, located in the First Reformed Church of Nyack, is also gearing up for a busy holiday. Founded on Thanksgiving Day 2006 by Katie Berry, Kathie Rife and Kathleen Meyers, the group is in its sixth year of operation.
Soup Angels serves dinner restaurant style to about 80 guests every Monday and Wednesday with tablecloths, real china, silverware, candles and flowers. This year, on the day before Thanksgiving, the all-volunteer staff anticipates serving 200 meals with an additional 1,200 prepared meals being delivered throughout the county.
Although food pantries and soup kitchens form vital safety nets, they struggle to feed the growing number of people seeking help. Rockland County residents can help by donating or volunteering year round.
For more information and opportunities to volunteer or donate visit the websites of these organizations at: