Local Communities Fight Food Insecurity

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Within the last few years, there has been an influx of food pantries opening up at synagogues, churches and universities all across Long Island.

According to FeedingAmerica.org, food insecurity refers to “a lack of available financial resources for food at the level of the household. Approximately 76,000 people in Nassau County are food insecure, nearly 35,000 of which are children,” states data from 2016.
Last month, the Sid Jacobson JCC in Roslyn opened up a food bank, which will operate as a distribution center for non-perishable food, personal care and household items. The JCC plans to distribute the food to the areas of Roslyn Heights, Great Neck, Manhasset, Old Westbury, Port Washington and Glen Cove.

“We have identified food insecurity, even on the north shore of Long Island. [Our] goal is to support our local pantries, many of which are struggling to keep their shelves stocked. If we can keep the shelves of our food bank stocked, we can provide the necessary reinforcements and replenishment [to] our local pantries,” said Susan Berman, director of Center for Community Engagement.

On May 7, more than 50 students from the Sid Jacobson’s early childhood education program came to stock the shelves of the food bank. The students collected around 200 non-perishable food items from the Purim celebration on March 20.

“We know that food insecurity does not look the way everyone might think it does,” Berman said. The Economic Policy Institute released a report in 2018 that estimates the cost of living in each of America’s 3,142 counties and 611 metro areas. The report estimated that a family of two adults and two children living in the Nassau/Suffolk area would need to earn a combined $139,545 per year, or $11,629 a month, to live comfortably.

“Food insecurity does not discriminate, and many of our neighbors may need to visit a food pantry at some point just to get by. The cost of living on Long Island is very high, and quite often, purchasing healthy food is secondary to other costs, such as taxes, rent/mortgages and utilities,” Berman said.

In Roslyn Heights, the E Joy Community Center opened up a food pantry in 2009, but has seen the number of clients increase. Currently, they see about 150 clients on a monthly basis and approximately 1,200 people a year. The community center food pantry has clients from mainly the north shore areas of Manhasset, Great Neck, Port Washington and Roslyn.

Audrey Lewis, founder of the community center, stated that there is a definite increase in the number of attendees, due to the fact that SNAP benefits are decreasing. Another contributing factor is financial hardship.

The Shelter Rock Church in Great Neck opened up a food pantry in 2013 and currently has about 65 families attending on a weekly basis. Pastor Jim Owens stated that he thinks the need is so great due to the amount of public housing in the area. “There are folks that come from all over. They may have jobs in the area and then they hear about the food pantry,” Owens said.

The church also has a food pantry in Westbury, which opened in November 2018. Currently, the food pantry is only open every other Saturday, but they are looking for a larger location and to expand their hours in the near future. Currently, there are about 10 families attending.

“We try to stay close to our community. If folks have a need, we try to help them in any way we can,” Owens said.

Currently, the food pantry at the E Joy Community Center is in need of a refrigerator. To donate, contact alewis.ejoycrc@gmail.com or call 631-624-0383. To find out more information about food banks or food pantries in your area, visit www.feedingamerica.org and search “find a food bank.”

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