Robert Hallam, 61, of north Lynbrook, is organizing the 12th annual People’s Food Drive, in coordination with the Long Island Council of Churches Food Pantry in Freeport, to help families in need in Nassau County fight food insecurity.
The council is collecting monetary and food donations to feed families in nearby Baldwin as well as Freeport, Malverne and other South Shore communities, with additional help from an online GoFundMe campaign that began on Feb. 3.
“Sometimes people think the needy are homeless and downtrodden people,” Hallam said. “The people we help are really the ‘working poor’ — they have homes, but they live paycheck to paycheck.”
Inflation and rising food costs, he added, are driving more Long Islanders to the food pantry. “Everybody is aware of food prices going through the roof,” Hallam said. “When eggs go from $2.50 to $8 a dozen, it puts an imbalance in their paychecks.”
The food drive, he explained, is not designed to sustain families, but rather to give them a chance to temporarily ease the burden created by the cost of food.
Hallam, a member of Malverne’s Community Presbyterian Church, said the drive started as an offshoot of the church’s annual food collection in 2011, when he began placing donation boxes around his community.
“In our first year, we collected 984 donated items,” he recalled. “Now we’re in the range of 25,000 donated items each year.”
Hallam said that he and his wife, Mary, put out the first donation boxes at his workplace, Nassau Door and Window, in Lynbrook, and at Jeremy’s Ale House, in Freeport. Since then, the initiative has grown dramatically.
“It’s not just the church anymore — it’s not just me and my wife anymore,” Hallam said. “This is how we came up with the name the People’s Food Drive. Everybody involved in the drive is a member, and plays their part to give back to the community.”
For a month now, donated food items have been filling up the living and dining rooms of the Hallams’ Lynbrook home, where they are being divided into boxes that will be transported to the Freeport pantry on Hanse Avenue in three weeks. “My house is completely filled with boxes,” Robert said, “from floor to ceiling.”
March 25 is Move the Food Day, when the Hallams and other volunteers will load the food boxes into a truck donated by Nassau Door and Window for the short trip east.
“Around 60 people will line up, starting in my living room, down the front steps, and all the way out to the truck,” Hallam said, “and start a human conveyor belt of boxes to load the truck.”
When they arrive at the pantry, he added, they will reassemble and do the process in reverse, conveying the boxes from truck to pantry. Last year, he said, some 200 volunteers helped out.
Hallam said he would be collecting food and monetary donations up until Move the Food Day. To donate, to volunteer for the move or to learn more about the People’s Food Drive, go to Facebook.com/ThePeoplesFoodDrive or tinyurl.com/2023PeoplesFoodDrive.
Or, contact Hallam at (516) 315-3036.