On December 5, 2013 the League of Women Voters of Southwest Nassau held a well attended meeting on “Hidden Hunger on Long Island” at the Hewlett-Woodmere Library.
Speakers from each of two organizations, “The Island Harvest and the Interfaith Nutrition Network” (The INN), were there to give us some hard facts about the people in need that are right here among us, that we don’t notice. We may not notice them, but they are very much a part of the fabric of our communities’ right here on Long Island.
The Island Harvest gathers as much of a variety of food as they can for distribution to the soup kitchens. (I guess that’s where their name Harvest comes from). They work with grants and corporate donations as well as donations from individual enterprises. They truck all their deliveries all over the Island helping (hopefully) to keep the kitchens supplied so the needy can be fed.
At this point the Interfaith Nutrition Network (The INN) takes over in the form of Soup Kitchens. The speaker gave us the unbelievable number of around 300,000 people, right here on Long Island, the richest counties in the State, who are in need of nutritional assistance, a euphemism for just plain hungry. In other words, if the INN, or some other charitable organization doesn’t feed them, they will go hungry. They were not talking about the kind of hunger we feel between meals. They were talking about the kind of hunger that comes from not eating for extended periods of time or eating very meager meals spaced out to make what you have last as long as possible. They were not talking just about adults, but about so many children too. The statistics for hungry children across these United States stands between 20% and 25%. That’s a number that should open anyone’s eyes.
They spoke about the popular view of “the hungry” and how much of that is such a false image. The people who come to them to be fed cross all racial and ethnic lines. The numbers have grown in this recession period, and a lot of the people who used to be up in the social strata have now become part of the have-nots. The work of the Island Harvest and The INN has grown as the economy has changed.
The speaker from the INN made a point of saying that they never ask for proof of need from anyone that walks through their doors. Whoever comes to them, they will help. This is the truest form of charity and they serve it up with an open hand and a giving heart..
There was great audience participation, with some very pointed questions and suggestions made. When I spoke to the speakers after the meeting they were very impressed with the interest shown by the people in attendance. I’m sure that these two organizations hope that the interest turns into active support for their work.