During the past thirteen years, Long Island Cares, Inc. has expanded our programs and services to better meet the needs of diverse populations of Long Islanders and to place greater emphasis on responding to the root causes of hunger and food insecurity in our region. Most people familiar with Long Island Cares focus on the work of The Harry Chapin Regional Food Bank, and our support of 350 community-based member agencies who received more than 18 million pounds of food in 2020 to assist nearly 480,000 of our neighbors impacted by the Covid-19 global pandemic. Since 2008, Long Island Cares has embarked on a number of new program initiatives that have resulted in our organization functioning equally as a humanitarian organization as much as a food bank. The national hunger relief organization Feeding America has frequently recognized Long Island Cares, Inc. as a non-traditional food bank incorporating direct service models of programming to expand both its capacity and distribution of emergency food and focusing more on the needs of people than on the pounds of food distributed.
Several times during the past 13 years, other food banks have reached out to us to inquire about our direct service mobile programs and satellite locations as a model for other food banks to duplicate in their states. Among the programs that have gained attention are our six satellite locations, homeless outreach, Baxter’s Pet Pantry, mobile school pantry, Vets Work and Support our Seniors S.O.S. mobile outreach services. In each of these examples we’ve been able to maximize private and corporate donations and/or government funding to serve as start-up support to launch the programs that have become self-sustaining within a very short time. Long Island Cares operates approximately twenty direct-service programs that serve individuals and families in both Nassau and Suffolk Counties.
Our satellite centers are located in Freeport, Lindenhurst, Huntington Station, and Hampton Bays. Both Lindenhurst and Hampton Bays each have two Long Island Cares’ program locations. Each community where we’ve opened a satellite is considered high-need, at-risk communities where additional support is needed for the local community. In recent years, our satellites have been a successful vehicle for our staff to assist people in enrolling in the various healthcare exchanges under the Affordable Care Act, enrolling people in the SNAP programs, and providing ESL classes for local residents.
In May of this year, Long Island Cares will open our 7th satellite location in the Bethpage community. Our new Harry Chapin Food Bank Essential Market will provide visitors the opportunity to select non-perishable and perishable food in a setting that embraces consumer choice. The Essential Market will also offer visitors a wide variety of personal care items, household supplies, pet food, live cooking demos and the opportunity to access all of the other services provided at our satellites in a welcoming setting similar to Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods. The location of our Essential Market has been used as an emergency food pop-up distribution center during COVID-19 to increase food support within Nassau County and the Town of Hempstead. The market is being redesigned while I write this column and we’re looking forward to the grand opening soon.