Food banks, soup kitchens and emergency food pantries across the country are gearing up for what has always been the busiest time of the year as we prepare for Thanksgiving, and then the December holidays. This is the time of year when many individuals and businesses on Long Island are thinking about ways to help those in need, donate to their favorite charities, and are generally in a giving spirit. There are literally thousands of nonprofit charitable organizations throughout Long Island that are well deserving of your support, and I hope that as you read this column you’ll think about supporting those causes that are near and dear to you and your family by volunteering your time, attending a special event, or even making a year-end donation.
I recently reported that there has been a decrease in the overall number of Long Islanders described as being food insecure, as per Feeding America’s “Map the Meal Gap” report. The numbers of people struggling with food insecurity in our region dropped this year from 316,000 to 272,000 or 14%. What that means for Long Island is that some people may not require the services of our emergency food network, leaving 9.5% of Long Islanders still visiting their local food pantry, soup kitchen and the regional food bank on a regular basis. With unemployment at its lowest numbers in decades, more people are finding employment and have improved their ability to be more self-sufficient. Though others have decided to move out of our region. What we do know is that some of our local soup kitchens continue to report an increase in the number of people coming to them for a healthy meal, and that the number of people accessing Long Island Cares’ three community-based satellite locations is on-track to increase to 32,000 people receiving emergency food through the regional food bank’s hunger assistance and humanitarian service centers. We also see increases in the number of seniors participating in the Meals on Wheels program, and our own Mobile School Pantry program that provides weekend food for children in the Brentwood School District and the Riverhead School District. So, although the number of people might have decreased, the need remains the same with more frequent visits to our pantries and soup kitchens, and concern for families to share in the offerings of the holidays.
The number of people in need of emergency food support on Long Island although reduced, is still quite troubling. There are too many children, seniors, Veterans, homeless, disabled, immigrants, and others living in poverty and even 200% above poverty in our region, and many of them deserve your support this holiday season and throughout the year. Long Islanders have a very rich history of giving. This was very clear in 1980 when Harry Chapin founded Long Island Cares as the first food bank in our region, and it continues today, thirty-eight years later when private donations to our organization account for a significant percentage of our annual budget.
So, will you help provide a holiday meal to our neighbors in need this year? Of course you will, and you can do it by visiting your local food pantry, soup kitchen, senior center, Head Start program, mental health treatment program, Veterans Services agency, LGBTQ program, drug treatment and rehabilitation program, day care center, disabilities day habilitation program, special education school, or going online to: www.unitedwayli.org, www.guidestar.org, www.charitynavigator.org, which is also where you can find more information about our local nonprofit charities, including Long Island Cares-The Harry Chapin Food Bank. Let’s make the holidays happy for our families, and another family who might be in need. The holiday spirit brings out the best in Long Islanders.