BY MICHAEL RICONDA
New City – County Executive C. Scott Vanderhoef joined representatives of various hunger relief groups on Tuesday to proclaim September 2013 as Rockland County Hunger Action Month, kicking off a host of programs which will provide food relief to Rockland’s neediest residents.
The announcement covers members of the Rockland Hunger Coalition, a group of likeminded relief groups who aim to pool resources and knowledge to achieve their goal of alleviating hunger. According to Vanderhoef, the move is a step forward in uniting groups which had collaborated to only a limited extent.
“The news here is the coalition itself,” Vanderhoef said of the efforts. “That is something important.”
Hunger remains a pervasive problem, impacting 30,000 food-stressed Rockland residents across the county from both high and low income areas. Seniors are at particular risk because they often live on fixed incomes, have high medical costs which cut into food budgets and are at a greater likelihood of living alone without aid.
“Those with savings are dipping into them, and that is a scary situation,” Department of Social Services Commissioner Susan Sherwood explained.
Participating organizations include People To People, Catholic Community Services, Meals on Wheels, Just Say Yes to Fruits and Vegetables and the Rockland County Department of Social Services. Community programs will include outreach to houses of worship and public information campaigns on government and non-profit services, workshops on healthy food selection, soup and bread lunches on various dates and both coin collection and restaurant fundraisers.
The Coalition will also host a “food bus” which will collect donations from county office buildings and the Park & Ride on Route 59 by NYS Thruway Exit 14 and distribute collected food to area food pantries.
The problem, while persistent, is beginning to gain traction and increased public attention with surprising results. According to People to People Executive Director Diane Serratore, last year’s events drew so much enthusiasm that nonprofits had to expand for this year’s initiative.
“Last year, a group of us got together and had Hunger Action Week,” Serratore said. “So many things happened and last year so many people wanted to get involved that we had to make it Hunger Action Month, following what they do nationwide.”