In a powerful collaboration to combat food insecurity and childhood hunger, Island Harvest Food Bank, Freeport Public Schools, and No Kid Hungry New York joined forces to recognize the impact of their initiatives.
The culmination of their efforts was celebrated at a ceremony held at the Archer Street School in Freeport on Nov. 30. Representatives and officials from Island Harvest, No Kid Hungry, and Freeport Public Schools attended the event, acknowledging the success of their joint endeavor and the significant strides made toward addressing local childhood hunger.
Island Harvest Food Bank distributed fresh fruits and vegetables in July to 1,330 Freeport families at various school locations. The initiative received support from No Kid Hungry New York to enhance awareness of SNAP benefits and facilitate participation in the Freeport school community.
Randi Shubin Dresner, president and chief executive of Island Harvest, expressed gratitude for the support, emphasizing the importance of eliminating the stigma associated with seeking help for basic needs such as food. Island Harvest’s approach involves providing supplemental food support without requiring proof of hardship or immigration status, reaching children, veterans, and older adults through a network of 300 community-based agencies and direct programs.
“Our mission at Island Harvest really is to end hunger on Long Island and programs like this one today is how we’re going to move closer to that kind of a goal,” Dresner said. “This is about highlighting partnerships and how three different organizations can work together and have a really big impact.”
Island Harvest Food Bank is a leading human services organization on Long Island, dedicated to ending hunger and reducing food waste.
“We are grateful to No Kid Hungry New York in helping us make sure that people are aware of SNAP benefits and offering the funds to help encourage people in the Freeport school community to apply,” Dresner said. “In addition to increasing awareness of available benefits and other assistance, we want to make sure that people understand that there is no shame in asking for help, especially when it comes to a basic human right such as having access to food.”
Data from the U.S. Census Bureau notes that approximately 11.4 percent of Americans, or 37 million individuals, live in poverty, with 12 million of them being children. On Long Island, nearly 300,000 people, including one-third children, face food insecurity, highlighting the pressing need for initiatives like SNAP in Schools.
Stephanie Wu Winters from No Kid Hungry New York acknowledged the challenges faced by New Yorkers in affording groceries. She emphasized SNAP as a crucial defense against child hunger and expressed pride in the partnership with Island Harvest to connect eligible families with this vital resource.
“The high cost of food has made it very difficult for New Yorkers to afford groceries, even middle income families are struggling,” Winters said. “We know SNAP is one of the best lines of defense against child hunger and are proud to partner with Island Harvest to connect more eligible families with this critical resource, helping stretch their monthly food budget to ensure enough healthy food is available at home every single day.”
Kishore Kuncham, Superintendent of Freeport Public Schools, affirmed their commitment to addressing childhood hunger and food insecurity. The collaboration between Island Harvest, No Kid Hungry New York, and Freeport Public Schools resulted in 85 SNAP applications submitted between July and November 2023, generating $244,876 in benefits with a local economic impact of $377,109.
“We are deeply committed to addressing the crucial issue of childhood hunger and food insecurity in our school community,” Kuncham said. “Thanks to the invaluable partnership with Island Harvest and No Kid Hungry, New York, we are taking significant strides towards ensuring that no child in our schools goes hungry. Our joint efforts are a testament to the power of community partnership in making a tangible difference in the lives of our young learners and their families.”
The program provides additional support by offering free breakfast and lunch to all students, as well as a backpack program for groceries over the weekend. Since its launch in July, over 1,350 families benefited from the initiative, receiving fresh produce regularly without any concerns about immigration status.
“We take this absolutely very seriously here because we want to bring help support to our families, no family should go hungry in this in this era,” Kuncham said. “We have all the resources available, and we have to make sure we make it happen and when kids can go beyond hunger or even the adults. When your basic needs are met, then you can really be thinking about other things very clearly and that means you can succeed in life.”
The event at Archer Street School marked a significant milestone, highlighting the collective impact of the Island Harvest Food Bank, Freeport Public Schools, and No Kid Hungry New York in addressing the critical issue of childhood hunger. To learn more about No Kid Hungry and join the cause, visit NoKidHungry.org.
“No one should be hungry in our country and certainly on Long Island,” Dresner said. “So, when Freeport schools and No Kid Hungry and Island Harvest can work together in a very focused way, we could really help a lot of families and move the needle on ending hunger here in our community.”