Food insecurity is the reduction in the quantity and quality of food due to a lack of money and, believe it or not, is a big problem on Long Island. Thankfully, there are places like Island Harvest.
Island Harvest was created in 1992 by Linda Breitstone who was infuriated that perfectly edible food from local convenience stores was being thrown away at the end of the day. She went around collecting and redistributing these foods “to end hunger and reduce food waste on Long Island.”
Island Harvest is now Long Island’s largest hunger-relief organization, delivering millions of pounds of surplus food – much of which might otherwise go to waste – to a network of 570 Long Island-based food pantries, soup kitchens and other non-profit organizations that offer feeding services to those in need.
I recently spent time volunteering with Island Harvest and the experience really moved me. This is the first time I got involved with my community thanks to Professor Jill Silverman, the instructor for my Community Nutrition class. We met at a school in Central Islip and spent time packaging the donated items; squash, apple sauce, canned foods, apples, cooking oil and corn. As cars lined up we deposited these packages into the trunks of their cars. Many of the cars had babies and small children.
As mentioned, food insecurity on Long Island is a huge issue. Approximately 284,000 Long Islanders will suffer from food insecurity at some point this year, and 39% of those hungry are children. Food insecurity will be even higher this year due to the effects of COVID layoffs and school closures. Many families do not have enough income to supply all members of their family with adequate amounts of healthy foods so food insecurity not only affects the amount of foods consumed but the nutritional values, as well.
As someone who will soon be working in the nutrition field, I believe it is important to encourage food insecure families to take advantage of programs and volunteer-based organizations such as Island Harvest to provide their family with enough healthy food to meet their needs. Unfortunately, many people don’t know these resources exist which is why spreading the word is so important.