Shelter Island Reporter Editorial: Thanksgiving 2020

History will record 2020 as the year when everything changed almost literally overnight, when in March the nation woke up to a health crisis not seen in 100 years.

And every day since, there’s been a grueling march of illness and death, with millions out of work, and millions more wondering how they will make ends meet with reduced wages and salaries.

This Thanksgiving, though, there’s reason to count our blessings if we can stay healthy and help our neighbors do the same.

One of the more clumsy phrases employed by sociologists and nonprofits is “food insecure.” The language police — and we count ourselves as on-duty officers — will sneer at the transfiguration of the age-old and still serviceable “hungry.”

But for nearly 75% of the Long Island households in emergency food programs, food insecure describes them more accurately than hungry. (Another sobering fact: more than 10% of Long Islanders who receive emergency food are children.)

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), food insecurity “describes a household’s inability to provide enough food for every person to live an active, healthy life.” In practical terms, it means that people are involuntarily cutting back on meals or not knowing where the next meal is coming from.

The USDA reported 116 million U.S. households were food insecure with nearly 11 million households in a condition of “very low food security,” which translates to one or more people sharing a home who have been hungry “over the course of a year.”

The grim statistics don’t spare Long Island. Long Island Cares, a nonprofit food provider, estimates that 283,700 of our neighbors in the region receive emergency food each year.

Long Island Cares can be reached at 631-582-3663 or [email protected]

Closer to home is the poverty on Shelter Island, which many of us don’t see. But School Nurse Mary Kanarvogel does, every day. She’s told the Reporter that “In the dead of winter, it gets rough. I do a lot of field work with the Lions Club to distribute IGA food cards, to help families with heat and coats, or help kids who don’t have money for a school trip.”

The Lions have done extraordinary work helping neighbors in need and have teamed up with the Shelter Island Action Alliance, formed earlier this year when the shutdown in the face of COVID-19 hurt local businesses and restaurants.

The Alliance helps provide meals to Island seniors, many of whom live alone and are homebound due to the pandemic. For more information on the Alliance, go to shelterislandlions.org/action-alliance.

The Food Pantry at Shelter Island Presbyterian Church is managed by selfless volunteers, who deserveour thanks. To donate food, personal care items or money to the Pantry, email: [email protected]

For everyone who is fortunate to be with loved ones — really or virtually — at our November feast this year, we’ll count blessings and understand that an important element of our citizenship is remembering those who are not quite as secure as we are.

Happy Thanksgiving.