As I reported in my August, 2016 column in the HIA-LI Reporter, a new report published by Feeding America, the national hunger relief organization representing 197 food banks across the country describes a 27.2% increase in the estimated number of Long Island children experiencing food insecurity. The recent report entitled, Map the Meal Gap 2016: Child Food Insecurity in New York by County in 2014 reports that 40,360 children in Nassau and 48,670 in Suffolk face food insecurity by not having consistent access to nutritious food on a daily basis.
During the summer months, many of our local pantries, soup kitchens, camps and other organizations that provide emergency food in Nassau and Suffolk County are able to reach thousands of children in need through various Summer Food Services Programs and other community activities. These organizations do their part to make sure that children experiencing high food insecurity and their families had food and a nutritious meal to eat while schools were closed for summer vacation.
Now that schools are open, many more children who qualify for the free or reduced fee school breakfast and lunch programs funded by the USDA will have their needs met through this federally funded program that many Long Island school districts participate in. Children’s food insecurity is not limited to one community or one group of people on Long Island. Approximately 94% of all New York Schools participate in the USDA breakfast and lunch program and that includes numerous school districts on Long Island where more than 120,000 children receive free or reduced-cost meals while attending school. So, if you think that West Hempstead is different than Wyandanch or Bellmore is different than Brentwood when it comes to children in need of food, you’re mistaken. When it comes to children’s nutrition, our schools are in the forefront of making sure that children in need of a healthy-choice meal are provided with one because teachers, administrators, nurses, social workers and other school personnel understand that a child experiencing food insecurity can also experience difficulty in learning.
Now that schools are open, some of the community organizations that provided summer meals can now focus on providing these same services after school, on weekends, or on holidays when schools are closed. Some organizations will also distribute new school supplies to children in need as a result of sponsoring special school supply drives, working with the business community to secure special grants to purchase school supplies, and numerous civic organizations and foundations will collect school supplies to distribute to families in need. Our children need us, and you can help by responding. One easy way the business and corporate community can help in providing food for children and families in need, is by contributing to the 2016 HIA-LI Summer Food Drive that benefits Long Island Cares. We still have time to reach our goal of 100,000 pounds and you can make a difference by joining the 169 HIA-LI members who are already helping the 89,030 children on Long Island in need of your support. For more information call (631) 582.3663 Ext. 113.
This article initially appeared in the HIA-LI Reporter, September, 2016