EAST MEADOW, N.Y. – As the number of confirmed coronavirus cases on Long Island broke the 1,000 mark, a regional leader of the area’s food pantries said donations and volunteering is down just as need is about to increase.

“We are currently in the midst of trying to deal with two crises at the same time: One, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the other related to increasing layoffs, terminations, and furloughs of people who had important jobs to do but can’t do them now,” said Paule Pachter, CEO of Long Island Cares, during a news conference on Long Island on Friday.

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Pachter’s group runs food pantries and food outreach programs to veterans, seniors and the homeless. He expects to see a 20% increase of families in need over the next two to three weeks.

“Currently there are 259,000 Long Islanders who rely on the services of the Emergency Food Network,” he said. “It is indeed conceivable that an additional 50,000 people will be added because of the layoffs.”

CORONAVIRUS OUTBREAK

Though the need may be going up, available locations have already started to drop.

“Right now I can share with you of the 349 pantries that Long Island Cares provides food to, 44 – or 13% – have already closed their doors,” said Pachter.

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“The reason they have closed their doors is because the majority of staff and volunteers that work at the food pantries are individuals who are aging,” he said. “They are people in the early to mid-70s and they have to take care of themselves.”

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Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s executive emergency orders announced this week exempt the regional food banks in New York state from having workers avoid their public workspaces, but some are choosing to stay away anyway.

Of the seven available soup kitchens on Long Island, two are already closed.

The federal government this week pledged $400 million in aide nationwide, $300 million for purchasing food and $100 million to cover distribution.

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For information on helping volunteer or make donations, see the Long Island Cares website at www.licares.org.