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Coronavirus Update: NYC Food Pantries Sound Alarm Over Lack Of Supplies, Volunteers, Funding

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- New York City food pantries have declared a state of emergency as a result of coronavirus. They're desperate for help as they struggle to meet a need for their services that continues to grow quickly.

As people are social distancing to stop the spread of COVID-19, food banks and the pantries they stock are seeing a big drop in supplies, volunteers, and critical funding. Carlos Rodriguez is the president of Community Food Bank of New Jersey.

"March and April, each one of those months, we saw 800,000 less pounds of donated food," Rodriguez told CBS2's Charlie Cooper on Wednesday.


Meanwhile, the need is at an all-time high, with nearly 17 million unemployment claims filed in the past three weeks. Jean Shafiroff with New York City Mission Society works with pantries that help those in need.

"Instead of 100 people on line for food, there are now 800, 900, and you've seen, wrapped around city blocks. It's just a nightmare," Shafiroff said.

"It's very important that we keep the food pantry going," food pantry recipient Elizabeth H. said. "There are a lot of people out there that need it and if it wasn't for them, like I said, I don't know where I would be. I'd probably be living in the streets or digging in the garbage cans."


Elizabeth H. depended desperately on local food pantries in the past and said she knows first hand the struggle many people are facing right now.

"It does make a difference in life, in our lives to be able to have food and put it on your table and say to their child or something, like, 'I'm going to make a good meal today,'" she said.

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Nearly a third of New York City's food pantries have closed because of the challenges presented by COVID-19.

If you're in need of food, call 311 or go online to to find out how you can get free meals.

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