By Vincent Ball and Justine Josue
Island Harvest Food Bank, the largest hunger relief organization on Long Island, is moving into a 22,000 square-foot warehouse in Calverton, a process that will be complete by the first week of May.
The space, donated by J. Kings Food Service, will be utilized as a distribution center to more easily service communities on the East End. Over a hundred member agencies, or food banks, in the area will be able to save money and time picking up food from the new location.
“Our member agencies are very excited because it’s going to help them with gas that they really don’t have to come to our current Hauppauge warehouse all the time,” Vice President of Operations and Food Procurement, Migdalia Otero said. “They’ll be able to get more food at a more frequent basis.”
More than one in ten Long Islanders are food insecure, according to a report by Feeding America.
“People think because we are in the ‘Hamptons’ that there are no needy people here,” Evelyn Ramunno, Director of the Sag Harbor Food Pantry, said. “It is very much a place where folks are struggling to survive, the elderly, young families, and seasonal workers alike.”
Island Harvest’s work towards mitigating hunger has been recognized by John King of J. Kings Food Service, and he is confident his donation will be put to good use.
“There are a lot of other charities that you write checks to not knowing whether or not they will do a good job,” King said. “I believe in their mission and as a food distributor who understands how the food system works, I know they are run well.”
“Food banks, soup kitchens, and even food stamps are a vital parts of our social welfare system, however, they will never end hunger,” Marc Settembrino, a professor of Sociology at Southeastern Louisiana University explained. “These programs provide food to those in need; a full stomach is important for maintaining physical and emotional health; however, they do not address the underlying cause of food insecurity: poverty.”
Otero and Island Harvest are aware of this, but they aren’t going to let that deter them from their mission. “We may not be the complete solution, but we’re part of the solution,” Otero said. “I have a lot of work to do, Island Harvest Food Bank has a lot of work to do. We can’t just stop. We have to give hope to the people who feel hopeless.”