In a region often known for its wealth, picturesque beaches, gold coast mansions, and numerous golf courses one would have to wonder why 9.0% of its population is struggling with domestic hunger and food insecurity. But this is the reality on Long Island where approximately 259,000 people including 77,000 children face food insecurity on a daily or weekly basis, where nearly 65,000 people utilize the services of their local food pantries or soup kitchens each week to access emergency food provided by the regional food bank and other organizations whose mission is to feed the hungry. Despite an economy improving, a reduction in the number of people unemployed, and an increase in New York State funding for hunger prevention, there are nearly 3 million New Yorkers that face food insecurity every day, and 9.0% live in Nassau and Suffolk Counties.
The late Harry Chapin who founded Long Island Cares, Inc. as the regional food bank in 1980 spent his career advocating for solutions to the problem of hunger in America. Chapin dedicated the income from half of his concerts to two organizations that he founded, WHY Hunger and Long Island Cares. Providing emergency food to people in need was secondary to Chapin’s vision for Long Island Cares. He was more focused on understanding and educating the public and Congress about the root causes of hunger and in 1980 along with his wife Sandy, he founded Long Island Cares. Thirty-nine years later, we’re still trying to educate people about the root causes of hunger, but we’ve come a long way towards ensuring that no Long Islander needs to go hungry in 2019.
The root causes of food insecurity or hunger on Long Island are no different in our region than across the country, and focusing on income or government assistance often misses the mark. Hunger on Long Island is the result of underemployment where parents are working 2-3 different jobs to pay their bills, family instability, insufficient education, a history of racial or ethnic discrimination, disability status, aging and living alone, personal choice or a combination of these factors. For families facing food insecurity it means having a lack of access to food when they do not have the resources to put a nutritious meal on their table, and relying upon a food pantry to help stretch your food budget, especially if there are children involved.
Solving hunger on Long Island can’t be achieved by food or government entitlements alone. The solution requires community engagement, corporate partnerships, enhanced personal responsibility and stable government programs. That’s where the HIA-LI and you can make a difference. The HIA-LI and Long Island Cares annually partner to host The HIA-LI Summer Food Drive where all of the association’s members can donate non-perishable food or make a donation to Long Island Cares to provide nutritious food to our neighbors in need. Getting involved has never been easier, just log onto https://www.hia-li.org/hia-li-events/annual-food-drive/ and complete the registration form, or email Billy Gonyou at [email protected]. Together we can solve hunger on Long Island.
Originally published in the HIA-LI Reporter, August, 2019