Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Dobbs Ferry Food Pantry, located at South Presbyterian Church, experienced two increases — first in the number of people in need, and then in the number of people available to fulfill that need.
The food pantry went from serving 40 families on March 4 of last year to a high of 160 families on March 31 of this year. The pantry operates on Wednesdays, from 10 a.m. to noon, and also from 5:30-7 p.m. on the last Wednesday of the month.
For the volunteers who staff the food pantry, their ranks were bolstered by students from Dobbs Ferry High School who were available on Wednesday mornings due to a schedule that required them to work from home part of the week. That schedule was in place from this past September until full-time in-person classes resumed on April 12.
The students sorted and packaged food, distributed it to families who showed up, and delivered it to those unable to stop by. In addition to Dobbs Ferry, the food pantry serves residents of Ardsley, Irvington, and Greenburgh, though anyone in need is welcome.
Adam Galland, a DFHS junior, started volunteering in June 2020. He learned about the pantry from a neighbor, Ellen Crane, who chairs the executive committee of SPRING Community Partners, a Dobbs Ferry-based nonprofit that helped establish the pantry in 2011 and increased its involvement during the pandemic.
While interacting with families at the pantry, Galland, who is bilingual, thought of the struggles his mother experienced growing up.
“Food insecurity is one of the huge things that was made worse by the pandemic,” Galland said. “However bad it got I always thought back to my mother, who came from El Salvador, and it gave me a real drive to help in community service.”
Preston Long, also a junior, described his experience at the food pantry as “eye-opening.” He began volunteering in December 2020, after hearing about it through family friends. He advocated for the pantry at school, and asked friends and family to donate. He noted that many students helped out at the pantry, depending on their class schedule.
“We have a lot of friends that come here week to week and people in our grade showing up to contribute with anything the pantry needs” Long said.
During the pandemic, some students struggled with remote learning due to the lack of one-on-one contact with teachers. For junior Remy Terjanian, who started volunteering at the pantry in August 2020, the experience helped him.
“People don’t realize how helpful to one’s personal mental health doing community service can be,” he said, describing everyone at the pantry as “incredibly inviting and open.”
Long shared that bags of food go quickly and that families come early in the morning to ensure they receive a bag. Most of the families reside in Dobbs Ferry, which surprised the students.
“Seeing all the families at the pantry really brings to light the economic backgrounds of everyone within the community,” senior Jasmine Broa said. “We as a community can’t pretend we all have the same background. That's why any donation goes a long way.”
Galland urges other members of the community to donate and to volunteer.
“People tend to push this aside as they come from a comfortable position of privilege, and when they do that they ignore the suffering of others,” he said. “It shouldn’t take feeling pity or guilt to do the right thing. What it takes, to anyone seeing this, is to do any small part you can or just understand the importance of being there for your neighbors.”