Our Ongoing Response to Hyperstorm Sandy

When Sandy hit our city, our immediate neighborhood was spared the effects of the storm surge. Of course, due to the gale-force winds, we had fallen trees and downed powerlines all around us; but, our site escaped with only very minor damage. The morning after the storm, our team members circumnavigated the obstacles and were at their posts—ready to help in any way possible. We immediately mounted a disaster relief effort—coordinating with local Members of Congress, City Council Members and other elected officials who had the best and most up-to-date information on the situation in the flood zones.

Without knowing exactly how we were going to pay for it, we committed funds to our Sandy Response Effort that were equal to a third of our annual budget. With our years of experience in Mobile Pantry operations and our well-practiced teams, we knew we could make a difference in the midst of the crisis that was evolving in the City’s “Zone A” areas—a term that was quickly attracting meaning as New York’s new “ground zero.”

In week one of Sandy’s aftermath, we served over 10,000 households. If we thought the work we were doing in the past was a lot, Sandy really changed everything: Prior to Sandy, we were serving an average of 14,000 individuals per month. These most vulnerable New Yorkers were, of course, among the hardest hit by this disaster— regardless of where in the city their homes may have been—if they had homes at all. Obviously, their needs increased dramatically as a result of the storm. But, apart from them, Sandy created a completely new group of people who need our help—those whose homes were (or still are) in the City’s many flood zones.

Responding the burgeoning need, during the first month after Sandy, our Mobile Pantry alone served 14,000 FAMILIES—that was 41,301 people—including 14,743 children. Add that to the numbers we served at our base and we’re talking about 51,345 people—in one month: Quite a jump from the 11,271 we served the month before! In December, we had to change our approach in the flood zones: We channeled our resources to the affected families through our new satellite sites in seven neighborhoods—and we were able to take care of even more people as a result.

In the two months immediately following Sandy, The River Fund provided food to more than 87,000 people just in the areas affected by Sandy. By the end of December, we had shared 323 tons of product to families and seniors affected by Sandy—plus another 281 tons to our regular distribution areas.

During the month of January, the American Red Cross began winding down its direct-response efforts to Sandy. With the need still extremely intense throughout The Rockaways, Coney Island and several other parts of Brooklyn and Queens, key partners of The Food Bank for NYC, like The River Fund, were called upon to jump in and pick up the slack. Throughout January, February and March, we continued to supply food and other necessities to the needy in flood-ravaged communities through our satellite sites—and we're still at it. Both The Food Bank for NYC and City Harvest did their best to play a supportive role as disaster-relief organizations—channeling product to us, some of which actually came from the American Red Cross.

As February came to an end, the disaster-response initiatives of the NYC hunger relief networks—The Food Bank and City Harvest—began spiraling down and becoming more sporadic. At The River Fund, we still have satellite sites in five devastated neighborhoods in the flood zones, and we need to maintain our support for the families in these areas. Let’s put this in perspective: In The Rockaways and Coney Island, for example, parents are raising their children in homes that have inch-thick black and green mold growing on the walls. For some 40,000 households, their apartments were declared “too health-hazardous for our team to enter” by the only clean-up organization that showed up after Sandy. Indeed, for most of these people, everyday life was already an overwhelming struggle before the disaster.

Now, far too long after the disaster is considered past by almost everyone, thousands of households are still confronting the day-to-day impact of the devastation—as they struggle to send their kids to school, keep the home warm without a working boiler in their buildings, and provide at least one meal a day for their families. We cannot abandon these people. Although the support we were getting from elsewhere has all but dried up, we must continue to find ways to keep open the lifelines we have established to these desperate communities. More than ever, we depend on our own donors to help us buy needed supplies and cover the cost of our dramatically expanded logistics operations. To make a specific donation to our Sandy Response Fund, please click here.

Early Morning Loading for The RockawaysCrack of dawn: Two rented trucks being loaded simultaneously for distribution activity in The Rockaways.

We continue into the nightLate into the night, our work continues: Hunger never sleeps.

Click here to support our
Sandy Recovery Support Fund

Tons of product every dayIt takes a lot of organization and daily handling of tons of product to keep up with the needs of our satellite sites in the flood zones.

Every inch of space indoors and outWe use every available inch of space, indoors and out, as we move over 100 tons of product per month through our site.

Click here to see more images from one of our Sandy Response Slideshows on Flickr.

Click below to support initiatives related to this article:
 Sandy Recovery Support Fund
 Mobile Operations & Logistics
 Kids' Summer Getaway Programs
 Child Poverty Amelioration
 Kid's Back-to-School Program




© 2012 The River Fund New York - All Rights Reserved