Not long ago, few seniors came to the LICC’s emergency food pantries, except those who came as volunteers and those who brought donations to help their neighbors in need. Lately, though, we have been feeding a steadily increasing number of senior citizens, nearly 200 a month. It is sad, of course, that our elders are having a hard time making ends meet. The constant increase in cost of living—which has outstripped any COLA increases in government benefits—combined with lower returns on their savings is squeezing them harder each year.
Special Dietary Needs
These growing numbers of elderly clients challenges our ability to combat hunger. Not only do we need more donations to assist an ever-increasing number of Long Islanders, seniors also often need food that emergency food centers seldom have in stock, such as low sodium dietetic, sugar free, and low fat foods, vitamins, and dietary supplements (Ensure, Boost, etc.)
Hunger Takes A Psychological Toll
Moreover, seniors are turning to us for help who have never before had to seek assistance from anyone. Five years ago, I could tell without a thought whether a car that pulled up in front of our Riverhead office was someone seeking food or somebody schlepping donations from their congregation. I can’t tell anymore, both because those who once brought baskets of food may now need help themselves and also because the elderly often dress up to seek assistance, doing whatever they can to preserve what remains of their dignity.
Our Seniors Need To Be Fed With Compassion
It takes compassion and patience to extend help to those who are not accustomed to needing assistance. We have created reception areas that are welcoming, places where our guests can sit comfortably while they fill out our minimal paperwork, get a cup of coffee or a glass of water, and choose the food or clothes or household items that they need, rather than simply accepting a one-size-fits-all box of food. We also have recruited those who need help to assist others, delivering groceries to a shut-in neighbor while discreetly accepting a bag for themselves.
Low-fat, low-sodium: Donate What You Dislike
That low-fat food you tried and disliked may be a godsend to someone else. The no-salt tomato sauce you don’t care for may be just what they need. If you have food they need in your home that you probably will not eat—particularly low-sodium, dietetic, sugar free, and low fat foods, vitamins, Ensure, Boost, and such—please donate it. We could use carpeting or area rugs in Hempstead and some comfortable chairs or small couches in Freeport and Riverhead to welcome our guests a bit more graciously. If you have none of these to give, please consider donating money so that we can assist your neighbors in need.
How To Donate
The LICC gladly accepts all sorts of non-perishable food, and we can often take perishable donations, too, but it is best to call first to see if we have room in or refrigerators and freezers. Donations can be dropped off at our Riverhead office (407 Osborne Avenue at Lincoln, opposite the Polish Town Civic Association, 631-727-2210), their Hempstead office (in Christ’s 1st Presbyterian Church at the village green on Nichol’s Court, 516-565-0290), or their Freeport Emergency Food Center (450 North Main Street, 516-868-4989). And if you have a large quantity of food to donate, we would be glad to pick it up.
You can also buy food for our food pantries through the links on this Web site, which allows us to get as much as possible from your donation and to get the items that our neighbors need the most.
Thanks for your support!
The Rev. Tom Goodhue, Executive Director of the Long Island Council of Churches