By Carolyn Gusoff

FREEPORT, N.Y. (CBSNewYork)Pandemic restrictions are disappearing, but pandemic food insecurity is not.

On Long Island, officials say the need for food for struggling families and veterans has not eased, but help is coming.

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As CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff reports, veterans and volunteers are filling bags, while filling an unprecedented need for food and clothing.

“A lot of them are not working any more, they lost their jobs due to COVID, problems paying rent, problems paying the electric bill,” said Ralph Esposito of Nassau Veterans Service Agency. “Very heartbreaking.”

They’re gearing up for a stand down like no other. Hundreds of veterans are expected at the Freeport Armory for a giveaway of essential items and social services needed more than ever.

COVID VACCINE

“New sneakers, socks, all kinds of toiletries, non-perishable food,” said Nassau County Executive Laura Curran.

All are essential after the pandemic shuttered elderly and vulnerable veterans, and sent those most desperate into homelessness.

“Some people are living in the woods and we’ve been bringing these people out and bringing them to Nassau County and putting them in hotels, and getting them bus passes and stuff so they can get back to work,” Freeport Village Mayor Robert Kennedy said.

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Long Island is home to more than 130,000 veterans. Lonnie Sherman, a homeless veterans advocate, predicts the problem is about to get worse.

“There is going to be a major issue in this country with homelessness in the next six months to a year. Shelters are going to explode,” Sherman said.

ARE YOU RUNNING OUT OF FOOD?

And it’s not just veterans in need.

More than 22,000 pounds of food for hundreds of families was packed at Mercy Hospital in Rockville Centre. With pandemic restrictions now eased, volunteers are back in person, grateful they can make a difference.

“I started doing it after my husband died and it was such a – it just helped me,” said volunteer Anne Macmenanin. “I’m helping people, this is helping me.”

Nassau’s Stand Down event Friday is a drive-thru event, with one of the most important giveaways: COVID vaccinations for veterans still in need.

Curran announced Thursday proceeds from the county’s marathon this fall will benefit veterans services.

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For more information about Saturday’s event, CLICK HERE.

Carolyn Gusoff