Shelter Island Reporter editorial: Thanksgiving 2021

History will record 2020 as the year when everything changed literally overnight, when in March the nation woke up to a health crisis not seen in 100 years. And most days in 2020 there was 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. Last month 531,000 Americans were hired and started receiving paychecks. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job growth was widespread across all industries, including hospitality, professional services, manufacturing and transportation.

Vaccination rates against COVID are going up, which is something to be thankful for, but the unvaccinated among us are still unprotected and can easily infect others. We also see a trend of more cases being recorded.

Thanksgiving means being grateful for what we have and sharing our good fortune. The lessons taken from the Thanksgiving stories we’ll tell, for everyone fortunate to be with loved ones at our November feast, is that it’s a day to count blessings and remember that an important element of our citizenship is remembering those who are not quite as secure as we are.

Long Island Cares, our region’s first food bank, was founded in 1980 by singer-songwriter and activist Harry Chapin. It recently noted that 204,030 Long Islanders met the criteria for food insecurity and are receiving assistance through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). But Long Island Cares also said that 40% of those going to local pantries don’t receive SNAP assistance.

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

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 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.

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 and others work with the Lions Club to distribute IGA food cards and, as she has said, help families with heating bills and warm clothes.

We’re grateful that The Food Pantry at Shelter Island Presbyterian Church is managed by a selfless volunteer, Carrie Wood, who deserves our thanks. To donate food, personal care items or money to the Pantry, email [email protected].

Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at the Reporter to you and your families.