Roughly 221,000 people on Long Island suffer from food insecurity, according to Feeding America, a charity that works to end hunger in the U.S.
Ahead of the Fourth of July weekend, Senator Steve Rhoads partnered with Island Harvest — the leading hunger-relief organization on Long Island — to collect non-perishable goods, toiletries and hygiene supplies, baby essentials, household items, and pet essentials for a Freedom Food Drive. All items collected went to Island Harvest who then distributed them to those in need.
On July 1, Rhoads, Legislator Tom McKevitt, Island Harvest representatives, including President and CEO, and East Meadow native, Randi Shubin Dresner, and Boy Scouts from Troop 362 in East Meadow gathered outside of the Stop & Shop on Hempstead Turnpike to spread the word about the need for food.
“Local support is really the foundation of Island Harvest, we started local,” Shubin Dresner said. “Island Harvest has really grown because of the support from our communities.”
While the need for food is usually more prevalent during the major holidays like Thanksgiving or the Christmas season, Rhoads wants people to remember that food insecurity is a problem that exists year round.
“We chose this weekend because we’re celebrating our independence, and we count our blessings as Americans but you have to be cognizant of the fact that this isn’t a happy holiday for everyone,” Rhoads said. “Food insecurity is a problem that exists year round, not just during Thanksgiving, not just during the holidays and we thought this was the perfect time to kick off the holiday weekend with the chance to give back to those who are less fortunate.”
Boy Scouts were there to help by handing out fliers to shoppers as they walked in the store, and when they stopped by on their way out to drop off any donations. A table was set up with info on how to contact Rhoads's office, but also with resources for whatever someone may need.
“We’re always willing to help out in the community, you know, we’re a big part of the community,” Pablo Pereira, scoutmaster of Troop 362, said. “The boys understand the need because they’re older and they can see it. They know they’re making a difference in the community where they live and know the people.”
Boxes were designated for different types of items such as toiletries, food, and pet products. Shubin Dresner said that she loved seeing how full the toiletries box was because sometimes those items are the ones overlooked the most.
“One product that people don’t think a whole lot about is feminine products,” she said. “We need to find more ways to get more products to women in low income communities and we don’t often have that item in stock.”
Out of the 221,000 hungry Long Islanders, 65,000 of those are children. Summer vacation may be fun for some, but other parents may worry that they can’t provide enough food now that their child isn’t getting a lunch anymore.
“This is one of the toughest times of the year,” Shubin Dresner said. “Kids are home from school and they don’t have access to school meals. We find that our pantries are often empty, and this is a time where we need help from the community the most.”