NEW YORK (AP) — Pantries and soup kitchens have struggled to respond to the growing need prompted by Superstorm Sandy while coping with issues such as ruined food and delivery woes, the New York City Coalition Against Hunger said Wednesday.
More than 60 percent of agencies responding to the group's annual survey reported an increase in the number of people requesting food after the storm.
Meanwhile, nearly 75 percent were forced to close or limit their hours of operation, and some still were not back to regular service by late last week, the coalition said. Over one-third of the organizations that responded reported having food ruined by wind, water or power outages.
Some struggles were evident even before the storm.
About 11 percent of the respondents said they knew of a food program that had closed in the past year. On Monday, the Food Bank for New York City said the number of pantries and soup kitchens in New York City is down 25 percent in the last five years.
Over a third of the coalition's respondents said staff and volunteers, many of them with low incomes themselves, dig into their own pockets to help pay the bills.
"The good news is that government agencies, corporations, religious institutions, foundations and private citizens all generously contributed money and food after the storm," the coalition said.
"New Yorkers and Americans all seemed to agree that no one should go without food for as much as a few hours because they faced a natural disaster. This aid needs to continue over the long term."
The coalition also noted that people tend to volunteer at food programs around the holidays, serving soup, packing cans and doing other nuts-and-bolt tasks. While that's welcome, it said, help is needed year-round — including policy advocates and volunteers with grant writing and computer skills.