December 6, 2012

Hurricane Sandy created significant obstacles for the delivery of meals Citymeals provides to nearly 17,000 homebound elderly New Yorkers on a regular basis. Citymeals distributed shelf-stable food from our warehouse and fresh meals through 33 community-based meal centers throughout the city, including centers in storm-ravaged neighborhoods such as Far Rockaway, Coney Island and the Lower East Side, that were closed or unable to operate at normal capacity in the aftermath of Sandy.

Even before we knew the full scope of the storm we moved into action. Our Brooklyn warehouse stayed open the weekend prior to Sandy to ensure all of our frail neighbors would have something to eat. We finally closed Monday night for the storm.  The warehouse reopened late Tuesday as damage had to be assessed and occupancy approved by City inspectors.

Thousands of our Fall Emergency Food Packages (EFPs), 21 pound boxes containing 12 shelf-stable meals, had been distributed the week before the hurricane.  We have made vast numbers of extra deliveries since then.  Citymeals sent out a total of 21,565 additional boxes of shelf-stable food – the equivalent of 64,595 meals. We reached not only the homebound elderly we nourish on a regular basis, but also delivered to nearly 10,000 additional vulnerable older people trapped in buildings without power.  We delivered shelf-stable food and water as quickly as possible to any older New Yorker who called for help.

Several of our board members and celebrities joined 863 volunteers delivering meals in the two weeks after the storm.  After climbing 17 flights of stairs one board member handed a box of shelf-stable food to a woman who was immensely relieved to see us.  After another nine-flight climb, she was met by a woman who was in tears when she realized her call for assistance had been answered.  Like so many others, the woman and her ailing husband had no power, water or working toilets.

The magnitude of Sandy exhausted supplies at our warehouse.  We are devoted to repairing damage to the warehouse and restocking it for the unfolding winter season.  Citymeals is actively fundraising to fill this gap and to ensure we have the available resources to rapidly respond to future emergencies.

We have charted a course of action we will carry out over the next several months to help in the recovery effort: 

  • Coordinate with restaurants and food businesses that want to donate their products or services to needy populations.
  • Solicit corporate donors for additional emergency supplies.
  • Work together with other food-related nonprofits and agencies to ensure that efforts are not duplicated and help reaches quickly to whoever needs it.  We also plan to expand the reach of our relief efforts by networking with other nonprofit groups and civic agencies.
  • Act as a hub for individual and corporate donations intended for Hurricane Sandy.