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Arisa Thepbanchornchai

Utilities Support Food Insecure People During COVID-19 Outbreak

March 27, 2020
With many states and cities under stay-at-home orders, many restaurants closed or limited to take-out and some unable to pick up groceries due to the risk of infection, this could be an opportunity to utilities to serve the communities they operate in.

Several electric utilities are taking COVID-19 as a cue to show not just their importance to the communities they operate in, but also their service role within their communities.

With many states and cities under stay-at-home orders, many restaurants closed or limited to take-out and some unable to pick up groceries due to the risk of infection, this could be an opportunity to utilities to serve the communities they operate in.

New Jersey’s Public Service Enterprise Group utilities did this in several ways. PSEG announced March 24 that it would donate 50,000 of the N95 filtration masks that were in short supply to local health systems and first responders.

“I’m grateful to the many private-sector partners who have emerged over the past several days with generous PPE equipment donations and are pitching in to help our New Jersey family,” New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said in an announcement that included PSEG.

PSEG called for other utilities to make similar donations out of their own inventories of emergency supplies. On the opposite coast, PG&E donated 480,000 N95 masks and 470,000 surgical masks to the Office of Emergency Services, a central repository for disaster readiness supplies in California.

PG&E and its parent company PG&E Corp. also contributed $1 million to nonprofit organizations focused on food insecurity, as well as small businesses to help with the uncertainty and economic impacts of the public health emergency. The donations came from shareholder funds, not customers, according to PG&E.

PSEG’s unit, PSEG Long Island and its foundation also made donations to local food banks, including $45,000 to the Island Harvest Food Bank, which serves children whose access to food was partially dependent on meals served at schools, which are now closed due to COVID-19.

"PSEG Long Island employee volunteers support Island Harvest throughout the year," said Daniel Eichhorn, president and COO, PSEG Long Island and Island Harvest board member. "During this difficult time, we are grateful that the PSEG Foundation is able to provide this grant to continue our support and help Island Harvest's efforts."

In New York, National Grid is supporting the United Way, which will provide direct services through UWNYC's ReadNYC, FeedNYC and StrengthenNYC programs, which includes connecting food insecure New Yorkers to emergency food providers through the Plentiful App, ensuring that emergency food providers have sufficient food for clients, as well as food needed for low-income schoolchildren who cannot access available free food programs; supporting remote learning for students and their families with critical resources like books, laptops and tablets, including digital tools such as iRead; and providing the supplies needed for extra safety like masks, gloves and bags.

"In this time of unprecedented crisis, United Way is once again stepping up to support our community," said John Bruckner, National Grid's New York President. "We recognize this is a rapidly changing situation and want to do our part for our customers and the communities where we live and serve."

In addition to giving to local food banks, Minnesota-based Connexus Energy donated to Meals on Wheels to help get food to those who need it most. The company said on Twitter that donated lunch bags were used to hang the meals on doors to ensure safe social distancing.

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