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Coronavirus Update: City Harvest Official Says Fight Against Hunger In NYC 'Is Overwhelming', 'It's Touching Everybody'

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- They are social distancing, but perhaps have never worked more closely and more urgently together.

They're volunteers at the City Harvest food rescue in Long Island City, where the mission is to get food out into the communities and into the hands and stomachs of people in desperate need.

"It's touching every borough. It's touching everybody. And that kind of need is overwhelming, actually," said City Harvest Chief Operating Officer Jean McLean.

Three weeks ago, when CBS2 last visited the City Harvest hub, the nonprofit was gearing up to deliver food to 400 local soup kitchens, shelters and pantries. Since then, 86 of those programs -- run by various organizations -- have shut due to coronavirus concerns and fewer volunteers.


That means there are fewer places for New Yorkers in need of food to turn, reported CBS2's Scott Rapoport.

"I don't think we've even started to see how dire it is. I think the ramifications of high unemployment here and everywhere in our city is going to really paint a picture way into the future for us," McLean said.

At City Harvest's seven mobile markets, like one in the Stapleton section of Staten Island, there's been a 30% increase in people coming in for food. According to the agency, many of them have never needed food assistance, and many more young families with children. It's a reflection of these dire times.

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

"What we're hearing from people... is either 'I've seen this before and I've never needed it. But I always noticed it. And now I need it.' Or, 'everyone in my household has lost their job,'" McLean said.

City Harvest says it is now working to open 22 additional sites in the five boroughs, each of which will distribute 4,000-12,000 pounds of food per week to grateful people, hungry for help.

PHOTO GALLERY: A Look Inside NYC's Viral 'Warzone'

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