As I look back on 2018 in relation to the number of Long Islanders who were helped by the regional food bank, I take a great deal of pride in the work of our staff at Long Island Cares and the ongoing support of the Long Island corporate and business community including the many members of the HIA-LI who continue to contribute to hunger relief efforts on Long Island that currently impact 272,000 of our neighbors including, 77,000 children. High on our list of priorities is the health and welfare of children who rely upon the free or reduced breakfast and lunch program in their schools to start their day with a nutritious meal. Our local schools have often been the first line of defense in responding to children’s food insecurity, and every school district in Nassau and Suffolk County is meeting these challenges especially since many school districts report participation in the free school meal program to be over 50% of their total enrollment. In districts where there is high need such as Brentwood and Riverhead, Long Island Cares’ Mobile School Pantry provides additional food support for children and families in need. In 2018, our Mobile School Pantry assisted 1,304 families in Brentwood and 1,194 families in Riverhead with food for the weekends and holidays when school is closed. These numbers will increase since the school year runs from September-June.
Last year, 37,083 people visited Long Island Cares’ three satellite locations in Freeport, Lindenhurst and Huntington Station where we provided them with enough food to have 334,257 meals. Of this total, 28% of the people seen in our satellite locations were children. More than 10,300 children received emergency food, new school supplies, new clothing, coats and toys from the regional food bank in 2018, and much of this support is made possible by corporate financial donations and private support we receive from companies like Bank of America, Enterprise Holdings, Long Island Community Foundation, Island Federal Credit Union, Newsday, Capital One and others. In addition to financial support, numerous businesses on Long Island provide staff volunteers on a weekly basis to help sort, repack and deliver food to people in need, and in 2018, we welcomed 1,612 new volunteers at Long Island Cares and together they provided 25,455 hours of service to the regional food bank.
Each weekend, we dispatch our two Mobile Children’s Breakfast Food Trucks to various communities to provide a nutritious, grab-n-go breakfast for at-risk children. Working in collaboration with our 384 member agencies, we were able to provide breakfast for 17,281 children in 2018 directly in their neighborhoods. This program would never had been possible without the support of our partners at Island Federal Credit Union, Chase, United Way of Long Island and Stop and Shop. Because of the support we receive from ShopRite families, Walmart and other corporate donors, we were able to provide 95,762 healthy meals for 930 children who participate in our 18 Kids Café afterschool meals program that are sponsored by local Boys & Girls Clubs on Long Island. In addition, Long Island Cares works with 21 local schools and together we provided 7,000 weekend meals for 556 children on the weekends.
There’s no reason why 77,000 children on Long Island need to go hungry, and no one knows that better than our corporate and business communities, and organizations like the HIA-LI. So as we begin a new year, let’s recommit to helping our children and other people in need by donating, volunteering, joining a board of directors, sponsoring a special event, and speaking up and showing everyone that, Long Island cares.
Originally published in the HIA-LI Reporter, February 2019