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Rockland's 'People To People' Struggles To Meet Growing Needs

People to People volunteers collect frozen turkeys for the Nanuet food bank. Photo Credit: Facebook
People for People executive director Diane Serratore talks to Girl Scouts at the food bank in Nanuet. Photo Credit: Facebook

NANUET, N.Y. -- Anyone who thinks the Great Recession is over isn’t paying attention, says Diane Serratore, executive director of the People to People fund in Nanuet.

Rockland County’s primary hunger relief organization is seeing a disturbing surge in the number of senior citizens who are seeking its help, Serratore said recently.

“The Greatest Generation didn’t ever want charity or any kind of assistance,” she said, but folks in their late 70s and 80s are finding that, even after just meeting their basic expenses, “there’s not a lot left over for food.”

People to People helps struggling families and individuals with food, clothing, school supplies, and holiday gifts, but because of the rising numbers of folks in need, it can no longer help out with expenses such as electricity and home heating.

During the so-called “Great Recession” the number of people the organization served soared from 400 to 1,000 a month, and, Serattore said, “those numbers have not gone down.”

She estimated that People to People assisted 8,000 folks just this November and December alone.

“You’ve heard that the recession is over? Well, we’re not seeing it here,” she said.

More and more people who don’t meet certain requirements, are being referred by Social Services to People to People, which has a “lower threshold” of income eligibility.

Many suffering temporary economic crises, such as the loss of a job, are being turned away from Social Services, she said, because they “are just not poor enough.”

Serratore says the organization’s biggest challenge is funding. While appreciative of all the volunteers and community groups that hold food drives to fill its pantry, People to People still needs cold, hard cash, she said.

The organization, which can buy food in bulk and with subsidies, gets “a whole lot more for its dollar than the average person,” Serratore explained.

Public support can wax and wane, especially during the holiday season, she said, pointing out that “people still need to eat in January.”

On the pantry’s shopping list are staples such as soup, cereal, pasta, granola bars, peanut butters, and canned vegetables and fruits.

One of the newer things that People to People is sponsoring to meet growing needs in Rockland is its weekend feeding center. During the week, needy children can get breakfast and lunch at their schools, but what “do they do on the weekend?” Serratore asked.

People to People now provides children with a package of food to take home which contains two breakfast items, two lunch items, snacks, and fresh fruit, she said.

“More and more people need our help,” Serratore said, “and we’re doing the best we can.

For more information about People to People, click here.

To contact People to People, call (845) 623-4900, or email info@peopletopeopleinc.org.

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