Island Harvest is part of a greater network, called Feeding America, which, according to Shubin-Dresner, is the largest hunger relief organization in the United States. In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, hunger relief organizations from 26 states, as well as from Canada, sent food and supplies to Island Harvest.
Representatives from both Nassau and Suffolk County’s Emergency Management offices were also present to address the audience. Edward Schneyer, director of the Suffolk’s OEM, explained the great difficulties that families faced as a result of the storm, but also acknowledged the resilience the residents displayed. “Immediately we implemented shelters to accommodate evacuees,” said Schneyer. “A lot of people couldn’t go home. I think what we’ve learned most importantly on Long Island, not just in Suffolk County, is that we are steeped in family ties and we have this very strong social capital where people have a very wide network of family and friends.”
According to Schneyer, nearly 28,000 people in Suffolk County signed up for FEMA relief, while more than 12,000 families that have made claims for the national flood insurance program. He added that more than 20,000 homes were affected by the storm overall.
In behalf of the Nassau OEM, Community Services Representative Raquel Wolf emphasized that planning for emergencies is not nearly as difficult as planning for recovery. Hurricane Sandy “tested our county and our region in ways that we could not previously imagine,” said Wolf. “If it had not been for truly the attentiveness and quick flexibility from you folks, from the many agencies that we worked with… it’s clear that we truly would not be where we are today.”
According to Wolf, Nassau County sustained the most damages and the highest levels of displacement of all New York’s counties following the storm. In response, the OEM coordinated 60 different agencies for more than two months as a 24-hour, seven-day per week program.
“We need to look, not just at the immediate needs,” Wolf said, “but what are the needs going to be 18 months from now.”