The webinar on the hunger crisis in our backyard last Tuesday was “attended” by over 65 members. Joe Trachtenberg (Class XIV) gave an excellent introduction of our presenters, Van Ellison (Class XXIV), President and CEO of St. Matthews House, Richard LeBer, President and CEO of Harry Chapin Food Bank, and Stephen Popper, President and CEO of Meals of Hope. Then each leader gave a description of their operation and summarized how you can help. One impressive theme was the way all the food banks and pantries work together to meet the need.
To summarize, the numbers are staggering. As an example, Mr. Ellison told us that while historically St. Matts supplied 40-60 families a month, since the pandemic, they have needed to find food for 2,500! Harry Chapin is providing over 2.5 times the amount of food pre-COVID-19. Both Mr. Popper and Mr. Ellison explained that at the end of each week, there is no inventory left. Last year typically they would have a one to two-month reserve. Mr. LeBer added that Harry Chapin is transitioning from donated food to purchased. In the past almost all food was donated, but the purchase number is now approaching 30%.
To address the primal fear that hunger can bring, Van tells his clients, “As long as I have food on my plate, there will be food for you.” That’s commitment! But they can’t do it alone. There are numerous ways GNL’ers can help. There is a real need for volunteers to sort and bag the food, as well as to distribute food in a touch-free environment. Van explained that it is a heartwarming experience to provide groceries to people who have been waiting in line for as much as 3 or 4 hours. Other suggestions included community food drives, and virtual food drives as well, which you could probably do up north.