When people in other parts of the country think of Long Island, they may imagine lavish Hamptons soirees attended by A-list Hollywood glitterati. They see Gold Coast palaces. And, in between, they envision sprawling suburbs with top-rated schools and neatly manicured split-levels, with a late-model SUV seemingly in every driveway.
And, yes, such images reflect a part of Long Island. But those of us who call the Island home know that this American paradise has a desperate side that is too often hidden by the glare of its wealth. There is poverty here. And there is hunger. We may not always see it, but it’s there.
According to the Nassau County Department of Health and Human Services, 10 percent of Long Islanders –– 300,000 people — go hungry every day, and more than 80,000 children depend on subsidized meals at school and camp to eat at least one square meal a day.
The Great Recession, which ravaged our economy from 2007 to 2009, left thousands of middle-class Long Islanders out of work and below the poverty line. The recession may have officially ended three years ago, but many people have yet to recover. Folks who never imagined that they would stand in an unemployment line –– or, for that matter, a food-pantry line –– now depend on our government and nonprofit social-service agencies for daily sustenance.
September is Hunger Awareness Month, a time for all of us with good-paying jobs to take stock of how fortunate we are –– and to lend a hand where and when we can. There are many community-based hunger-relief organizations working day-in, day-out to feed impoverished Long Islanders, offering us opportunities to help by organizing food drives at our schools, work places and houses of worship, donating canned and dry goods or simply writing a check.
Here are the major hunger-relief organizations working to feed the poor on the South Shore.
Founded by Linda Breitstone in 1992, the Mineola-based Island Harvest annually delivers millions of pounds of surplus food from restaurants and supermarkets to 570 food pantries and soup kitchens across Long Island. Since the organization began its work, it has delivered 71 million pounds of food to help make 66 million meals.
To learn about opportunities to help, check out Island Harvest’s website, islandharvest.org, or call (516) 294-8528.