Volunteers help the hungry, homeless

Groceries are donated to members of the community Groceries are donated to members of the community during Long Island Food Not Bombs' food share event in Hempstead. (Nov. 20, 2011) Photo Credit: Barry Sloan

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Nneka Workman waited in line, pulling a cart behind her as people slowly streamed forward.

She and her husband, who works at Target, had been homeless for three weeks until they found a room to rent recently in a Hempstead boardinghouse.

Sunday, she was one of hundreds who gathered across from the Hempstead Long Island Rail Road station for the weekly Long Island Food Not Bombs food and clothing distribution event.

"We need more food for the house," Workman said. "We can't go hungry."

Held every Sunday in Hempstead, the event usually draws 300 to 500 people, but two hours in Sunday, more than 1,000 people had already been through the lines, collecting 45,000 pounds of Thanksgiving-themed vegetarian groceries.

They also scooped plates of hot vegan food and picked up bags of clothing, books and toys.

"Our hope is to be able to provide at least a large bag of clothing for every person," said Jon Stepanian, a co-founder of Long Island Food Not Bombs.

The idea, he added, is to turn unwanted items and food that would otherwise be discarded over to those in need.

Shalini Krueger of Holbrook has been a volunteer for four years. "There's a lot of poor, working poor and homeless," she said. "They need the food and camaraderie."

A pile of bags sat in one section of the parking lot, with several tables set up before them, as volunteers picked through the items. They talked to people and came back with coats, pants, gloves and other items.

"We're doing it one-on-one," Krueger said. "It's not coming out of a building or some organization. We're talking to them about what they need."

Food Not Bombs, part of a national network, has three tenets: Food is a right, not a privilege; decisions should be made by consensus; and money spent on tools of war could be better used to fund education, food and other initiatives.

The food and clothes are all donated and collected through a network of volunteers. Many people who take food are volunteers as well.

"Most of the people that was giving, now they're coming here," said volunteer Kenneth Curry, a Hempstead resident who works in maintenance. "I take stuff, too."

Food Not Bombs also has Thanksgiving events planned in Coram, Huntington, Farmingville and Brooklyn.

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