In our holiday issue, Valerie Cotsalas shared the story of Long Island’s food insecure population and the people and organizations working to feed them. We’ve been encouraged—and, frankly, moved—by the impassioned response her story has received from you, our readers, on social media. It seems that you, like us, are dismayed by her story’s most startling fact: that over 250,000 Long Islanders are hungry.
The good news: you can turn that dismay into action. Here are five easy ways to get started.
1. Donate Food
One of the best ways you can help your food insecure neighbors is also one of the easiest: donate food. Food banks everywhere rely on donations from local residents—and food banks on Long Island are not an exception to that rule.
The best items to donate are non-perishable and packaged. Frozen turkeys are in especially high-demand at this time of year, too.
- To donate to Island Harvest, you can drop off your food items at any Panera location on Long Island, as well as at any Bristal Assisted Living. You can use Island Harvest’s Drop-Off Locator to find the location nearest you.
- To donate to Long Island Cares, you can drop off your food items at any of their First Stop Food Pantry locations. To see the complete list, please visit their website here.
- To donate to Community Solidarity, you can actually call or email them to arrange a pick-up at your convenience. Their telephone number is 631.223.4370 and their email address is LongIslandFoodNotBombs@gmail.com.
2. Donate Money
Like most non-profit organizations, food banks depend on donations to survive. This holiday season, set aside as little as $10 and you’ll be investing in the health of not only your less fortunate community members, but the health of your community itself. All donations are tax-deductible.
If the recent scandals of certain charities have left a bitter taste in your mouth, allow us to wash it out for you: you can always double-check how any organization manages its finances right here.
- To donate to Island Harvest, click here.
- To donate to Long Island Cares, click here.
- To donate to Community Solidarity, click here.
Volunteers are an incredibly important part of food bank organizations. Volunteer just a few hours of your time and you’ll help to feed thousands of Long Islanders. Just think of all the hours you spend on your couch, binge-watching Westworld (and then sitting there, wondering what the heck is going on). We think you’ll agree that volunteering at a food bank is a much better way to spend your time.
But don’t just volunteer on the holidays themselves! Food banks need you all November and December (and January, February, etc.), too.
- For more on volunteering with Island Harvest, click here.
- For more on volunteering with Long Island Cares, click here.
- For more on volunteering with Community Solidarity, click here.
4. Host a Food Drive
Long Island Cares alone distributes more than eight million pounds of food each year, and much of it comes from independently hosted food drives. The good news: hosting a food drive is easy and, from experience, I can tell you it’s easy to make it fun. Make a Facebook event, invite all your friends, and host a party or two. Tell each guest to bring 3-5 canned items and you’ll be amazed by how much food turns up! Remember what I told you: easy and fun.
- To host a food drive for Island Harvest, click here.
- To host a food drive for Long Island Cares, click here.
- To host a food drive for Community Solidarity, click here.
5. Share This Story
It is, as always, impossible to say it better than Leo Tolstoy: “If, then, I were asked for the most important advice I could give, that which I considered to be the most useful to the men of our century, I should simply say: in the name of God, stop a moment, cease your work, look around you.”
More than a quarter million Long Islanders are food insecure. That’s a daunting number, isn’t it? Remind yourself of it every time you sit down at a table for an abundant meal.
If you’re lucky enough to live in a well-fed bubble, dare yourself to look beyond it. Encourage others to do the same. Bad intent causes far fewer crises than blindness. So let’s all open our eyes and get to work. There’s a lot for us to do.
The three organizations mentioned in this story are not the only three organizations that need your help. We encourage you to reach out to your local churches and hospitals; most of them organize their own food drives at this time of year.