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COVID 1 Year: Food Insecurity Grows Throughout Tri-State Communities, 'The Face Of Hunger Has Changed'

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- With the virus continuing to spread and millions of American still out of work, food insecurity has grown worse.

As CBS2's Vanessa Murdock reported, the crisis is testing many organization that help people in need.

From mass distribution sites in the heart of New York City, to handmade blessing boxes in suburban New Jersey, it seems no neighborhood hid from the hunger crisis cased by COVID.

"The face of hunger has changed," Janelle Larghi, director of the Tri-Boro Food Pantry, told Murdock.

Larghi's grandfather founded the pantry in the 1980s in Park Ridge, New Jersey.

"He was met with a lot of resistance to have a pantry in this affluent area," she said.

COVID more than quadrupled the need.

"People who used to be coming to the pantry to donate food are in the line for food now," said Larghi.


Those words were echoed by Susan Colacurcio, executive director of the Franciscan Community Development Center of Fairview.

"Hunger has no boundaries. COVID has no boundaries. And I think the two came together, and it kind of caused a real tsunami," she said.

A transformation happened within the walls there -- 150 clients pre-pandemic, closes in now on 2,000. A small but mighty group of women make it possible.

"This is not 100% our work. It's the work of the Boss," Sister Gloria Aranguiz said.

The focus now is on sustainability, as the need still grows in Bergen County.

Commissioner Tracy Zur started the Food Security Task Force in July to focus on the long haul. She says it will be necessary and points to 2008 Recession data.

"The peak of food insecurity was two years after the start. But it took until 10 years for it to return to pre-Recession numbers," she said.


Interestingly, Long Island Cares already notes an improvement.

"We're slowly getting back to where things were pre-pandemic," said CEO Paule Pachter.

Pachter said requests for food dropped in January and February. Pantries shuttered during COVID slowly reopened, and many pop-up sites are no longer necessary.

They may be through the worst, but the number of Long Islanders needing help climbed by 63%.

Barbara Womack was one of hundreds who waited in line on a cold damp February day to take home fresh produce, cereal and more from City Harvest's St. Mary's Mobile Market in the Bronx.

"Everybody leaves here so happy," she said.

Food was the main reason, but manager Guillermo Rlugo played a big part, too. He knew almost everyone in line, despite it doubling in length over the last year.

"I don't see it dying down any time in the future," he said.


City Harvest plans to rescue and distribute more food than ever before in the next fiscal year.

"A lot of people out here really, really need it," Eugene Johnson, of St. Mary's, said.

Despite witnessing so many struggle, those Murdock spoke with said COVID brought something beautiful to light.

"New Yorkers rock. Always ready, no matter how grumpy and coffee-deprived we are," Rlugo said.

"That's the glue that holds all of this together," said Larghi.

The generosity of strangers ensures neighbors never go hungry.

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