Jared Benatar, 17, started volunteering with hunger-relief organization Island Harvest nearly four years ago. After seeing Randi Dresner, founder of Island Harvest, speak at Temple Judea of Manhasset, Benatar said he was inspired to get involved.
“The big thing for me is that I feel like, in my personal experience, a lot of people don’t recognize the severity of hunger on Long Island,” said Benatar, a senior at Roselyn High School. “Most people take eating for granted and they wouldn’t imagine going a day without food.”
Benatar said he is involved with Island Harvest food drives throughout the year, but recently opted for a solo initiative to raise money for the local organization. Island Harvest, created in 1992, aims “to end hunger and reduce food waste on Long Island,” according to its website, IslandHarvest.org.
The self-proclaimed athletic high schooler decided to run for funds and took part in the Fit & Healthy Mama 5K Run/Walk held at Eisenhower Park in East Meadow on Sept. 29.
After prepping for weeks at a local gym and nearby high school track, Benatar headed to the park on the chilly, early morn and found himself in a sea of women. He was one of about five men who participated in the race that attracted about 100 people. Benatar said, “I did notice I was nearly the only guy there,” but, he said, the location was chosen more for convenience.
Last spring, Benatar spent time volunteering at a food pantry in Roosevelt and, he said, seeing the people who were lacking a basic human need was “moving” and made the statistics “tangible.”
“With the economy the way it is, they are choosing between electricity and buying food,” he said. “These people are stuck in dire situations.”
Benatar, who raised money through a fundraising website and face-to-face donations, has secured nearly $1,000 to donate to Island Harvest. He describes himself as modest, but added, “It does feel good to help people in the near future.”
“We greatly appreciate all of the time and effort Jared has contributed to help our organization,” Dresner said in a statement. “The fact that he went a step further to organize this fundraiser makes us even more grateful and proud. Jared is a true role model to other students and people at every age level. We thank him and all of Island Harvest’s volunteers for their assistance.”
To participate in Jared’s Island Harvest fundraiser, donate at http://bit.ly/Rah548