Rockland’s Hunger Problem Not Going Away

Michelle Kleinman of the county health department said the high cost of living in Rockland is part of the hunger problem.
Michelle Kleinman of the county health department said the high cost of living in Rockland is part of the hunger problem.

About one in 10 Rockland County residents is considered “food insecure,” meaning they do not know where their next meal is coming from. A coalition of hunger relief organizations has banded together to help those in need and increase awareness of the growing problem. 

Rockland’s high cost of living – taxes, utilities, housing along with increased medication prices all factor into the current situation.  People to People Executive Diane Serratore said a family of four earning up to about $46,000 is income eligible for assistance from her organization.

Representatives of organizations participating in the Rockland Hunger Action Coalition and County Executive C. Scott Vanderhoef spoke on Tuesday about the need for food and monetary contributions to food pantries. They acknowledged traditional families; single parent families and senior citizens are struggling financially to put meals on the table. 

Meals on Wheels CEO and President Barbara Kohlhausen said last year there was a four percent increase in the number of people requesting homebound deliveries. Additionally, Meals on Wheels decided to go from delivering three boxes with a three-day meal supply over the course of the year to six because of the growing need. The county’s largest pockets of Medicaid recipients reside in New City, Congers and Nanuet. 

Serratore said there has been a significant jump in the number of families from Clarkstown looking for assistance.  About 33 percent of People to People’s clients are from Haverstraw and an equal number from Spring Valley.   

Vanderhoef declared September as Hunger Action Month in the county.  Coalition members spoke about various programs and events held during the month. “Hunger Summit 3” takes places on Wednesday, Sept. 18 with workshops on advocacy initiatives and action steps. Nutrition workshops will be offered to encourage increased consumption of fruits and vegetables and a healthy diet.

Michelle Kleinman of the county Health Department said, “We all need to eat healthy. If our stomachs are growling, our heads aren’t working.”

County employees and commuters will ask to help with food collection efforts for Rockland’s more than 25 food pantries by participating in the “Stuff A Bus With Food” on September 26th and 27th.  Also, on the 27th, the Day of Caring will involve unloading the buses and weighing the donations.   

Vanderhoef said food insecurity is not limited to one or two sections of Rockland.

“It’s all over,” he said. 


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