High Cost Of Groceries Sends Long Island Families To Food Banks
Food banks on Long Island are very busy
Inflation has driven up the cost of food, which has prompted more Long Islanders to head to food banks.
COMMACK, N.Y. – When it comes to the cost of food at the supermarket, the holiday season is hitting households a lot harder this year.
Grocery prices climbed about 13% over the past year with certain items, including meat, eggs and butter, even higher.
“The reality is, the cost of food has at least doubled now in supermarkets so families have no choice but to cut back,” said Jessica Rosati, the chief program officer of Long Island Cares.
“I have a location in Freeport that sees over 100 families a day,” Rosati said.
Long Island food banks distribute an estimated 20 million pounds of food from Nassau to Suffolk each year.
The cost of food has at least doubled now in supermarkets so families have no choice but to cut back.
“I don’t think there’s any community in the United States that doesn’t have people from one time or another have a need for food,” Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman said.
Nassau County is holding an End Hunger Celebration on the eve of Thanksgiving. Local pantries are collecting nonperishable food and frozen turkeys between now and then.
On average, a $35 donation to a nonprofit feed a family of four on Thanksgiving.
Southwestern Avocado Bell Pepper Quiche Cups
- 2 tablespoons low-sodium taco seasoning
- 1 large avocado, peeled, pitted, and diced into small pieces
- 1/2 cup shredded low-fat Cheddar Jack cheese
- 1 4-ounce can diced or chopped mild green chiles, drained
- 4 medium bell peppers , halved, seeds and ribs discarded
Recipe courtesy of American Heart Association
The Need For Food In Suffolk And Nassau Soared In 2020 Food Banks Say
Lisa Davis didn’t have much food in the house in September when her son, Aidan, noticed she wasn’t eating dinner one night. She said she explained to the 13-year-old that the COVID-19 shutdown had left her and her husband unemployed for months.
The boy was understandably upset.
That’s when she called the food bank Island Harvest, which delivered to her home a box containing oatmeal, canned vegetables, chicken, cereal, and mac and cheese.
“It’s not something anybody should go through,” said Davis, 42, of North Massapequa. She had been working in the kitchen of an AMC dine-in movie theater in Levittown, and her husband, Daniel, was an electrician.
The need for food skyrocketed across Long Island in 2020, more than any year in modern memory, worse than the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy and the first year of the Great Recession, food bank officials say. Island Harvest, the largest food bank on Long Island, fed more than 550,000 families this past year, an increase of 83% above the previous year. Long Island Cares, a Hauppauge-based nonprofit that provides food for 350 food kitchens and pantries, saw demand rise by 72% and provided 12 million meals in 2020, officials said.
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Long Island Cares Is Long Islands First Food Bank
Founded in 1980 by singer-songwriter and activist, Harry Chapin, our organization is dedicated to serving Long Islands hungry and food insecure populations.
Long Island Cares is one of almost 200 food banks across America that provides food to people impacted by hunger and food insecurity. When founded, Long Island Cares served a mere handful of agencies in Nassau and Suffolk Counties, but today, it distributes more than ten million pounds of food and supplies annually to nearly 400 member agencies in Nassau and Suffolk Counties, and operates 5 satellite offices, plus our main office and warehouse in Hauppauge.
Collecting Benefits Took 3 Months
Lisa Davis said she had never collected unemployment benefits, let alone sought help from a food bank, until COVID-19 shut down her and her husband’s income in mid-March. In addition to Aidan, they have two other sons.
“I started getting nervous,” Lisa Davis said. “I knew this was going to be a while.”
Receiving unemployment benefits for her and her husband took three months, because it was so difficult to get through on the phone. The family cut back on spending. No more trips to Dave & Buster’s. Fewer steaks at the grocery. By the fall, though, the family was in financial trouble again, she said.
“I thought, ‘My kids will never do without. We’ll sacrifice ourselves first,'” Davis said.
Then came the night that Aidan noticed she wasn’t eating.
Reaching out to a food bank wasn’t easy she was unable to shake her embarrassment, she said. But Davis knew she wasn’t alone. All she had to do was turn on the TV news and see all the people lining up for food.
The Davis family received another box of food from Island Harvest in November, along with a Thanksgiving turkey and some gifts for the boys, who love “Star Wars.”
Daniel had gotten a few scattered electrical jobs over the months, but no steady work. He worked for a few months for UPS during the holidays, but that’s over now.
Looking ahead, Davis said she doesn’t see a whole lot improving, at least for months, so she suspects she might have to ask for help again.
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Spinach Salad With Orange Vinaigrette
- 2 medium Italian plum tomatoes
- 1 oz. crumbled soft goat cheese
- 1 Tbsp. imitation bacon bits
- 2 Tbsp. sliced almonds
- 2 tsp. olive oil
- 2 medium green onions
- 1/4 cup fresh orange juice
- 2 Tbsp. white wine vinegar
- 1 Tbsp. light brown sugar
- 1/8 tsp. pepper
First Stop Food Pantries
Long Island Cares operates satellite locations including, its own emergency food pantries at several community locations. The public is encouraged to visit the location closest to them if they are in need of food. To insure the safety of our staff and our limited number of volunteers, our satellite centers will serve 6 families at a time and limit the number of people in our waiting rooms.
If you are in need please contact a location nearest to you to make an appointment, and to have food boxes delivered to your vehicle as we limit access to our sites.
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Happy Spring Lets Get Moving
Its April which means its Move More Month! The American Heart Association designated Move More Month to get everyone out of their chairs and moving! Just 30 minutes of physical activity each day can help improve your health, its that easy!
Getting daily exercise is very important when trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Making physical activity part of your daily routine can lead to health benefits like improved heart health, burn excess fat, and can even help with mental health! Sometimes the mental health benefit can get overlooked but there are many aspects to it: you can build a small community if you are exercising with peers, if you get outside you will be getting Vitamin D from the Sun which many Americans are deficient in, and in general you will just feel better about yourself!
Movement is very beneficial to heart health: it will improve your cholesterol, reduce inflammation in your body, and can help maintain healthy blood sugar and triglyceride levels. All of these will decrease the risk of coronary heart disease, which is the disease that leads to built up plaque in arteries which can cause a heart attack. The connection between movement and reducing the risk of coronary heart disease is very strong and very clear, which is why its so important!
Scramble To Find Food Funding
For Long Island food banks, 2020 was a scramble to find more food and more funding.
Long Island Cares received about $370,000 from the federal government in 2020 to help with its emergency food assistance. Also, the food bank received a separate $2.4 million in federal money passed through the Town of Hempstead, which helped set up 18 pop-up food pantries in the town. They were mostly located in senior citizen centers. With that money running down, the charity had to shut 14 of the pop-ups at the end of 2020, Pachter said.
For Island Harvest, which delivers millions of pounds of food to 375 Long Island-based food pantries, soup kitchens and other nonprofits, it was a year of reinvention.
Since its inception in 1992, Island Harvest largely had depended on donated food from supermarkets, wholesalers and distributors. But when the coronavirus created havoc, people rushed into supermarkets, and they sold out of many products. Wholesalers and distributors scrambled to resupply them, having little left over for charities, Island Harvest president Randi Shubin Dresner said.
“They just didn’t have excess product,” Dresner said. “Our donations just stopped.”
The food bank switched its focus from relying on donated items to purchasing food, soliciting monetary donations from people, corporations and government sources.
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‘alarming’ Food Insecurity Increase On Long Island Food Bank Says
LONG ISLAND, NY Hunger and food insecurity are on the rise on Long Island.
In 2022, Long Island Cares distributed 1,041,765 meals to 115,699 visitors, some of whom were repeats, at its five satellites across the island. In 2021, those numbers were 647,844 meals given to 73,896 visitors. The food bank handed out 60 percent more meals last year than in 2021.
The numbers are “alarming,” said Dr. Jessica Rosati, the vice president of programs at Long Island Cares.
“The drastic increases are demonstrating that there is significant food insecurity on Long Island, larger than we have seen since the onset of the pandemic,” Rosati told Patch. “Long Islanders are relying more heavily on food pantries to sustain their family’s food needs.”
The increased cost of food, inflation, and need for emergency food on Long Island all contributed to the stark year-over-year increases in meals distributed and visitors, Rosati said.
Long Island Cares anticipated the need for emergency food assistance would increase during the pandemic, but the organization grew “concerned” that the ongoing inflation and bump in food costs would cause food insecurity among more Long Islanders, said Paule Pachter, CEO of Long Island Cares.
The U.S. monthly inflation rate fell to 6.1 percent in December after hitting 9.1 percent in June, according to Statista. However, the prolonged high inflation is taking a toll on Long Islanders’ wallets, as many sought help at Long Island Cares, according to the nonprofit.
Starting Nonprofit To Help Feed Those In Need
The day after Ryan Carroll lost his job as a chef in New York City after restaurants closed in mid-March he was cooking chicken parmigiana for his grandmother when a thought struck him: “‘If I’m going to feed my grandmother, why don’t we feed everybody’s grandmother?'” he recalled.
Chef Ryan Carroll prepares meals alongside sous chef Samantha Faicco at Carroll’s Kitchen on Thursday. Credit: Newsday/Steve Pfost
Carroll, 27, of Massapequa, started making calls, and more calls. He said he gathered with 35 chefs and hospitality workers he knew, all of whom were newly unemployed. They started cooking meals out of a rented restaurant space in Blue Point. They cooked and sold some meals online, and used the profits to make meals they provided for free, Carroll said.
Since then, he has become a 501 nonprofit called Carroll’s Kitchen, hired a handful of staff, and gathered donations and a few hundred volunteers to help cook and deliver meals across Long Island.
“I bought six books on Amazon and watched every video I could find on how to start a nonprofit,” Carroll said.
Two weeks ago, needing a larger space, he rented 3,000 square feet in Bellmore. Carroll’s Kitchen has fed 33,000 people in need on Long Island with free meals, from the elderly to veterans to people in low-income neighborhoods, he said. The charity is funded through private donations and the sale of meals.
“I feel like we’re just getting started,” Carroll said.
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Fighting Food Insecurity On Long Island
The coronavirus pandemic has put many families in financial peril. As a result, more and more people are struggling with food insecurity. Across the region, food banks and food pantries have seen a surge in demand. To help to meet that demand, the New York agriculture department has been partnering with local food relief organizations to deliver fresh produce to those in need. As part of our Chasing The Dream initiative on poverty, justice, and economic opportunity in America- Randi Shubin Dresner, President and CEO of Island Harvest food bank- the largest food relief organization in Long Island and New York State Commissioner Of Agriculture, Richard Ball join us tonight to discuss the challenges of combating food insecurity amid the pandemic.
Aired on November 18, 2020.
Chasing the Dream: Poverty and Opportunity in America is a multi-platform public media initiative that provides a deeper understanding of the impact of poverty on American society. Major funding for this initiative is provided by The JPB Foundation. Additional funding is provided by Ford Foundation.
THE CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC HAS PUT MANY FAMILIES INTO FINANCIAL PERIL.
AS A RESULT MORE AND MORE PEOPLE FIND THEMSELVES STRUGGLING WITH FOOD INSECURITY.
ACROSS OUR REGION FOOD BANKS AND FOOD PANTRIES HAVE SEEN A SURGE IN DEMAND.
SO TO HELP MEET THAT DEMAND THE NEW YORK AGRICULTURAL DEPARTMENT HAS BEEN PARTNERING WITH LOCAL FOOD RELIEF ORGANIZATIONS TO DELIVER FRESH PRODUCE TO THOSE WHO FIND THEMSELVES IN NEED.
Places You Can Volunteer To Help Feed Your Neighbors This Holiday Season
Long Island Cares estimates that there are over 300,000 L.I. locals who are in need of food each day. Heres how you can personally work to change that.
Long Island Cares is just one local organization that is looking for volunteers this season and beyond. Photo courtesy of Long Island Cares
On Thanksgiving morning, my phone vibrated every few minutes as Black Friday emails flooded my inbox. I was abruptly confronted with the amount of stuff we have. The holidays are meant to be a time of selflessness, giving, and love, while often times they become a time of overabundance, gluttony, and excess. Instead of rushing out to go Christmas shopping after Thanksgiving, I was reminded of our neighbors who are thinking about the next meal, or the next hotel room they can afford.
As of January 2017, there were over 2,800 people in emergency shelters in Nassau and Suffolk County, with over half of those being children under 18 years old. This number doesnt include those living in substandard conditions, couch surfing with friends or family, or facing eviction. Long Island Cares estimates that there are over 300,000 people locally who are in need of food each day.
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