The latest research from the national hunger-relief organization Feeding America shows that one in eight Americans, or about 40 million people, are food insecure, or lacking access to a reliable, sufficient source of affordable, nutritious food.
On Long Island, it’s one in 10 or, about 300,000 people, according to Randi Shubin Dresner, president and CEO of the Island Harvest Food Bank.
“We serve communities throughout Nassau and Suffolk counties, and no ZIP code is immune from hunger and food insecurity,” Dresner said. “The face of hunger on Long Island includes working families, seniors, veterans and sadly children.”
About 27 percent of those served by Island Harvest Food Bank are children under the age of 17, many of whom receive free breakfast and lunch program at their schools, but often don’t get enough to eat when school is not in session. To provide supplemental food support for children when school is closed, Island Harvest Food Bank operates a Kids Weekend Backpack Feeding Program and a Summer Food Service Program that supports food-insecure children, at no charge.
“Every Friday during the school year, our Kids Weekend Backpack Feeding Program supplies children who are food insecure with packs of nutritious, shelf-stable food. Each pack contains enough for two lunches, two breakfasts, two snacks, and two servings of milk,” Dresner said. “ A program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Summer Food Service Program provides free, nutritious meals and snacks to help children in low-income areas get the nutrition they need to learn, play, and grow during the summer months when they are out of school.”
During the 2017/2018 school year, some 62,500 packs of food were distributed to more than 1,700 students in 11 school districts on Long Island, bringing thousands of weekend/holiday meals to children who otherwise would go without getting enough to eat. In 2018 the Island Harvest Food Bank’s Summer Food Service Program served nearly 9,000 children at 83 sites, run by local governments and other non-profit organizations.
Island Harvest accepts funds and food donations from generous Long Islanders, but most of the food received come from partnerships with local and national businesses, like Walmart. For more information, visit www.islandharvest.org.