(5 Jun 2020) On a humid day last week, in the parking lot of this Long Island town’s largest park, people of diverse backgrounds had a common bond. Each was making their first-ever visit to a food bank to help cope with hardships arising from the coronavirus outbreak.
“I’m hungry. That’s why I’m here,” said Marcia Duckley, a mother of four children ages 4 through 17 who lost her hotel job earlier this year. “It never crossed my mind before that I’d be doing this.”
Duckley, who came to the United States 30 years ago from Jamaica, said she has recently been feeding her children meals of flour dumplings with butter – plus an occasional treat of water flavored with sugar.
“They say, ‘Mom, when are you going back to work?'” she said through an open window as she edged her car slowly forward.
The scene in Valley Stream, a community of 37,000 in the Nassau County suburbs just east of New York City, has been replicated nationwide. Long lines of cars, sometimes numbering in the thousands, backed up while their occupants wait — sometimes for hours — for the chance to take home a free batch of food.
Island Harvest, one of the major food banks on Long Island, organized the food distribution in Valley Stream, one of many it has conducted throughout the area.
Randi Shubin Dresner, Island Harvest’s CEO, said the food bank has distributed 1.2 million more meals so far this year than during the same period last year.
In Valley Stream she said, 1,124 boxes of food were distributed by volunteers, mostly to motorists but also to several hundred people who came on foot. Each box contained roughly 25 pounds of milk, potatoes, apples, cheese and other produce.
Unlike many others in line, Mary Blaize is still employed – she’s a nurse in New York City. She said the stress of her job is now compounded by her husband’s recent layoff, making it harder to pay their mortgage and utility bills.
But she was upbeat about her first visit to a food bank.
“It feels good to know that people actually care,” she said.

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