More than a year into the Covid-19 pandemic, food insecurity and financial worries have made Sharon’s Food Pantry, at the Rockville Centre Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center, an important resource for the community.
The center’s assistant director and pantry namesake, Sharon Sheppard, has worked with Rena Riback and Judy Rattner, of the Anti-Racism Project, a Rockville Centre-based nonprofit, to keep families fed during the continuing tough times.
The Anti-Racism Project has raised funds and collected donations and directed them to the pantry, advertising as well to generate attention.
At this time last year, the partnership between the pantry and the Project was supporting 22 families experiencing food insecurity, but the need has since grown, and efforts have expanded to serve 90 or more families each week.
When the number grew to 70 last May, Sheppard reached out to Riback, who sent out mass emails calling the community’s attention to the emergency. The partnership proved even more essential when Sheppard was diagnosed with cancer.
“My concern wasn’t even about me being sick,” she said. “My concern was making sure that the people in the community that are going hungry still have a place to come to on Fridays to get fed.”
Sheppard credited her sister, Karen, and Riback and Rattner for continuing to meet the need.
“Every Monday on social media, we do a lot of posting, and we ask for what is needed for the week,” said Rattner, a former editor of the Herald, “and the community responds beautifully.”
And for over a year, that response has helped those who are struggling. “The gratitude and the gratefulness that the people around here have leaves me speechless,” Sheppard said.
Most of the families that use the pantry come in person, but Sharon’s volunteers have also delivered items to older residents to save them the trip. Families receive meat, fresh vegetables, cereal, snacks, eggs, milk, canned goods and more.
Though the facility was brimming with food donations at Christmas, Passover and Easter, Rattner said there has been a “significant drop” since then. So the pantry and the Anti-Racism Project have reached out as well to Island Harvest, the largest hunger-relief organization on Long Island, and have started receiving donations.
Sheppard is looking to expand operations at the pantry to a second day each week if donations continue to meet the needs of local families.
“Due to the pandemic, residents of Rockville Centre who never, ever used to come to this side of RVC are coming now,” she said.
“And that has been one of the most rewarding parts that we have seen,” Rattner added. “There are connections being made in this community that didn’t happen before.”
Residents can make donations to Sharon’s Food Pantry by dropping off items at the MLK Center, at 150 N. Centre Ave. #2, on Friday mornings between 8:30 and 11, or at the Anti-Racism Project, at 30 Seaman Ave., anytime. Monetary donations in the form of checks can be sent to the Anti-Racism Project address. All donations go toward the purchase of meat, produce and other food items. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.