BETHPAGE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Thursday is recognized as National Hunger Action Day, and hundreds pitched in to help at food banks across our area.

Many volunteers say they can fully relate to need for help.

“We all need each other. It warms my heart to do what I’m doing,” Katia Basquia told CBS2’s Jennifer McLogan.

Overcoming poverty in Haiti, Basquia is among dozens volunteering with Island Harvest to help their food insecure family members and friends on Long Island.

“You try to help them the most that you can,” Basquia said. “I don’t want to get emotional about this, but it’s really, really hard.”

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The pandemic has created a food crisis, an unprecedented need for food assistance. Island Harvest says 200,000 families are now asking them for help. Food boxes packaged each day can’t keep up with demand.

“It’s a very big deal for us, for many of us, not just for me. Because many of us are first responders,” said Antonio Quesada another Island Harvest volunteer. “Many of us are veterans that come here on a weekly basis. As a Latino male living here in Nassau County, I see the need firsthand.”

The farmers are on board through the pandemic, donating millions of pounds of corn, eggplants, peas, beans, squash and cucumbers.

“Oh, it really means a lot to to us that we can provide for people that are hungry, that need food,” said Fred Schmitt, of Scmitt Family Farms.

September is Hunger Action Month. Advocates ask Americans to volunteer and raise awareness and funds to help combat hunger in our communities.

CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC

“We need to make sure that children are fed. They can’t learn properly if they’re not eating properly,” said Randi Shubin Dresner, the president and CEO of Island Harvest. “Island Harvest is honored to be able to support so many of the school systems across Long Island.”

Percentages are rising this fall for children requesting lunches during in-person school and to take home on remote learning days.

Many people facing hunger say they’re forced to make tough decision between buying food and paying medical bills or rent.

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