In an effort to help people facing food insecurity, PSEG Long Island partnered with Island Harvest to host a food drive at Stew Leonard’s on July 23. “Power to Feed Long Island” kicked off this month and is expected to continue into September.
There will be two food drives each month outside various supermarkets across Long Island, said Christine Restani, customer experience manager of the PSEGLI community partnership program. The goal is to collect enough food for 21,000 meals this year.
PSEG Long Island aims to give back to communities in need, Restani said. And the need has been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic. “Food insecurity has really spiked during Covid,” she said, “especially during the summers, now that kids aren’t in school.”
PSEG Long Island donated $25,000 to Island Harvest to kick off the initiative, Restani said. Together the organizations created food drives at supermarkets across Long Island with a touchless system. People can pull up in their vehicles and hand off their donations, or put them directly in the collection boxes.
“Kids are out of school and they’re not getting their free lunches, and it’s a bigger burden on the families,” Amy Di Leo, PSEG Long Island’s senior communications generalist said. “Donations drop in the summer as well. The people coming here have been so wonderful. They really want to help.”
“We usually serve about 300,000 Long Islanders, but last year we served about 600,000,” said Gianna Bottone, Island Harvest food drive coordinator. “We’re trying to get as much food as we can.”
PSEG Long Island and Island Harvest have a long relationship in collaborating, and employees from both organizations volunteer at the local food drives, Restani said.
“We’re good partners,” Restani said. “It’s great to get back out together and help those in need.”
The local organizations have also completed food sorts and rescues, where they collect and distribute food that would have gone to waste.. PSEGLI has helped Island Harvest with their Stamp Out Hunger campaign, which is a collaboration with post offices to create the nation’s largest single-day food drive and assisted them in achieving their Guinness Book of World Record Award for the longest line of hunger relief packages in 2019.
Coming out of the Covid-19 pandemic, Bottone said, the need for food donations was 56 percent higher than it normally was.
“Island Harvest is so thankful to be partnering with PSEGLI, especially during the summer months when the donations are very low and the need is still high for the over 450,000 Long Islanders that we are serving this year,” Bottone said.
Those in need can collect donations at food drives or speak to advocates with Island Harvest or PSEGLI to help them get what they need. Low-income programs, help for seniors, financial support, energy efficiency information and more are all offered through the joint partnership. “Our advocates are well-versed in all of our available programs,” Restani said.
“If you have food at home then you help out others who don’t. It’s as simple as that,” Joyce Ferguson, of Uniondale, said. She came to drop off food after hearing about the food drive in a PSEGLI email.
“Food insecurity is such a major issue across Long Island and nobody really talks about it that much,” PSEGLI volunteer Kyra Bella said. “People that you interact with every day, including your neighbors and coworkers could be struggling — so I want to help out as much as I can.”
When you help out your community you are helping your neighbors, Restani said. “It only makes sense to help out,” she said, “and give back.”
This was only the second food drive out of six that has been planned across Long Island. The next food drive will be held on Aug. 6 outside of the Stop & Shop in Massapequa, on Hicksville Road. Every $1 donated to Island Harvest provides two meals to the community. Last year they provided a little over 18 million meals to those in need, said Bottone.
“I’m really excited to see this campaign through to fruition,” Bottone said. “It’s heartwarming to partner with a company like PSEGLI who are so willing to help their neighbors in need. I have no doubt we will surpass the 21,000 meals.”
Individuals interested in donating can go online to: www.psegliny.com/FeedLI.