What Five Towns foods pantries doing to increase donations


Once the generous donations from the holiday season come to an end, food pantries — including those in the Five Towns — suffer barren shelves, officials said.

From Thanksgiving to Christmas, there is an abundance of food to help feed individuals and families in need, but as the holiday spirit wanes, so do food pantry donations.

The pantries operated by three Catholic churches in the Five Towns — St. Joseph’s, in Hewlett, Our Lady of Good Counsel, in Inwood, and St. Joachim, in Cedarhurst — have found their shelves minimally stocked through the first three months of the year.

The volunteer effort at St. Joseph’s remains strong, with assistance from Hewlett Elementary School students, who help serve 30 individuals or families every other week. The pantry receives assistance from Long Island Cares and Foodtown of Hewlett, along with other weekly food and monetary donations.

“There is always a need for donations — it provides variety,” John Coyne, volunteer and chairman at St. Joseph’s, said. “We just try to get simple and get safe, nutritious food options.”

The donations needed most at St. Joseph’s include rice and beans, health care products and toiletries.

“We do have a wonderful reputation,” Dianne Gabbola, a volunteer and organizer at St. Joseph’s, said, “because the ones that are coming in have been coming for years, and we have fun with them while helping out.”

While the St. Joseph’s pantry caters to a smaller community, the pantry at St. Joachim serves more than 100 regulars, and the roster continues to grow. Topping the list of needs at St. Joachim are peanut butter, jelly and pasta.

“With our growing clients, we’re trying to maintain a good flow,” Mireya Jacobs, the pantry coordinator at St. Joachim, said. “It’s harder than previous years because the amount of food needed has increased due to the increase in clients. Donations are always welcomed and appreciated.”

Rising food costs haven’t helped, making it even more difficult for pantries to keep their shelves full. Those in need are also affected by cost-of-living increases, and find themselves relying on the pantries more than usual.

“With the prices of groceries increasing, we have more families needing help,” Jacobs said. “In previous years, our shelves would, for the most part, always be full, but this year our shelves are bare after we give out food.”

Each donation — big or small — makes a difference, officials said, adding that donors should make sure that food has not reached or passed its expiration date.

Like St. Joachim, Our Lady of Good Counsel also serves a large number of families, ranging from 70 to 90 every other week. The Inwood pantry is low on cereal, canned vegetables and tuna.

“There are big families in the neighborhood, and they go through a lot of food,” Lena Artusa, secretary at Our Lady of Good Counsel, said.

“There is always a need for donations,” Artusa added. “Our pantry fills up and empties out pretty quickly, especially during the (Easter) holiday, when kids are home from school.”

All three pantries are all affiliated with the Diocese of Rockville Centre. Catholic Charities of Long Island is another resource that helps them out on a daily basis.

“Jesus has called upon us as Catholics to help our community no matter the faith or background,” Danielle Campbell, director of communications and development for Catholic Charities of Long Island, said. “As Catholics we live the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. Our duty is to help provide food for those in need, and support our community.”