EMERGENCY FOOD PROGRAMS
We provide emergency food to individuals and families in crisis through our food centers in Riverhead and Freeport, and a smaller satellite location in Hempstead. The guests we assist come to us from the County’s Department of Social Services, houses of worship, partner health and social service agencies, people we’ve already helped, and walk-ins. No one in need is turned away.
Every three years Long Island Cares and Island Harvest commission and publish a report on hunger in our region. Their latest publication, Hunger in America 2010 focusing on Long Island, revealed that soon after the Great Recession hit our area, emergency food centers, pantries and soup kitchens were serving an estimated 283,700 individuals annually, a 21% increase from the 224,123 recorded in their previous survey. The 2010 report said the actual numbers could be as high as 383,200 a year.
Ninety-nine percent of the people we serve have household incomes at or below poverty level. They are single Moms raising children alone, adult men working at minimum wage trying to feed their families and pay the rent, families where a breadwinner is incarcerated or disabled and cannot work, and seniors, an increasing number of whom are raising their grandchildren. Many of our guests have special dietary needs that aren’t typically filled by food donations.
All of our guests are food insecure. “Food insecure” means individuals and families cannot obtain food legally except from us through our hunger alleviation programs. As our Freeport Emergency Food Center manager noted, “Without our food assistance, they will either steal food and risk going to jail or die of starvation.”
The hungry guests we feed are faced with the stark choice of feeding their families or paying the rent, or between feeding their families and paying their utilities and/or buying their child’s prescriptions. Their initial request is usually for food assistance, though other essential social services almost invariably accompany this request because they are all interrelated. Even with our diminished resources because of cuts in government funding, we are still serving over 1,650 per month through our emergency food centers in Nassau and Suffolk Counties.
When we give our guests nutritious food, they can use the money they would otherwise have spent on food to pay their rent/mortgage, utilities, transportation so they can get to work, etc., which reduces their food insecurity and keeps them in their homes. The food we give improves their health because now they can feed their families and also pay for their medications. Children who are fed the nutritional food we provide are better equipped to learn in school, and their health and self-esteem are improved. Our assistance also buys the family time to access additional resources.
October 3, 2012