The Long Island homeless and food insecure population has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, what with rising unemployment rates and food shelters struggling to remain open under new health regulations. The Interfaith Nutrition Network of Hempstead, or INN, is one organization that has adapted to deal with this struggle firsthand.
Although the pandemic has been a shock to the region and the world, the determination of volunteers and staff members at The INN to aid those in need never wavered, according to Jean Kelly, executive director of the INN.
“It is safe to say that the pandemic has caused many more people to find themselves in dire situations, seeking help they may not have needed just one year ago,” she explained. Not only does The organization focuses on aiding those struggling on Long Island, it will provide them with essential skills for self-sustainability.
The INN provides vulnerable populations with soup kitchens, emergency shelters, long-term housing, and its Center for Transformative Change. The Mary Brennan INN, the organization’s largest soup kitchen, normally provides hot meals to 200 to 350 people a day, five days a week. Displaying the severity of the pandemic, the kitchen has served 8,412 more meals to those in need this year than during the same period of time in 2019.
Because the soup kitchen is not able to operate due to pandemic regulations, the INN shifted to a grab ‘n’ go system where volunteers distribute bagged lunches to those waiting outside the building. This has helped to limit direct contact between INN staff and those in need during the pandemic.
Dana Lopez, the nonprofit’s director of marketing and communications, said that the new bagged lunch system, while a quick fix, has allowed individuals to bring meals to more vulnerable members of their family. Since March 18, close to 40,000 bagged lunches have been handed out.
The number of volunteers at the INN has remained steady, but the organization is always looking for more people to help. There are plenty of other ways to help as well, such as donating monetary funds or goods.
Information about volunteering can be found on the website, the-inn.org.
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