LONG ISLAND, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – Hundreds of volunteers are stepping up to help with food insecurity at an all-time high.

People came by foot and by car, with lines snaking around Nassau Coliseum for miles Thursday, hours before food was handed out. The first 4,000 families in line received a bag of food that they hope gets them through the week.

CBS2’s Jennifer McLogan reports a staggering increase in the demand for emergency meals in the suburbs of New York: the food insecurity epidemic has more than quadrupled since the beginning of 2020.

“Kicking off what I am told is the largest food distribution in New York State history, 40 percent of people who are utilizing food banks are new,” said Nassau County Executive Laura Curran.

CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC

40 percent of the people in line never asked for help before. Dozens of pop-up emergency food distribution centers on Long Island have fed tens of thousands of new mouths during the pandemic.

Despite COVID-19 numbers dropping, food bank leaders say the need is steadily rising.

RELATED STORY: Long Island Food Banks Trying To Keep Up With Rising Food Insecurity

In one afternoon, 200 volunteers handed out thousands of bundles of healthy food supplies, like milk, cheese, canned goods, meat and pasta.

“At this moment in time, we are distributing well over 1.5 million more meals than we did the same time last year,” said Randi Shubin Dresner of Island Food Bank, Long Island. “So we are in emergency response mode right through 2021.”

Layoffs, furloughs and business failures have hit people hard, putting a massive strain on families.

CORONAVIRUS: NY Health Dept. | NY Call 1-(888)-364-3065 | NYC Health Dept. | NYC Call 311, Text COVID to 692692 | NJ COVID-19 Info Hub | NJ Call 1-(800)-222-1222 or 211, Text NJCOVID to 898211 | CT Health Dept. | CT Call 211 | Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The Federal CARES Act passed in March set aside an additional $600 per week in unemployment insurance. That boost is due to dry up at the end of the month.

Nassau County recently saw a 125 percent surge in SNAP applications. That’s the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or food stamps.

Food bank leaders say there is a silver lining: corporate and private donations are going up.

Island Harvest will begin delivering to families impacted by coronavirus who cannot leave their homes.

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