For tens of thousands of local students, breakfast and lunch at school is often their best meal of the day. Several nonprofit organizations have stepped in to make sure that Long Island children are fed during the summer with school out of session.
Two of Long Island's largest nonprofits that address food insecurity — Island Harvest and Long Island Cares — have kicked off their summer feeding programs where children under 18 can access free breakfasts and lunches at sites throughout Long Island. The programs run from the end of school until it starts again in September. Meals are served at summer and day camps, community centers, libraries, churches, and community-based organizations.
On Thursday, Long Island Cares announced another initiative to assist families. In a partnership with Beyond Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience at Samanea New York in Westbury, Long Islanders who purchase a ticket and donate one bag of groceries will receive one complimentary ticket per ticket holder to the immersive event. This food drive runs through Aug. 6.
"Beautiful art can change how we see the world, and through our partnership with Long Island Cares, hopefully, we can help make sure fewer children go hungry this summer," said Justin Paquin, president of Paquin Exhibitions & Theatrical, a division of Paquin Entertainment Group, which produces the experience. The exhibit features more than 300 of Vincent Van Gogh's artworks in a three-dimensional display.
What to Know
- Two of Long Island's largest nonprofits that address food insecurity — Island Harvest and Long Island Cares — have kicked off their summer feeding programs where children under 18 can access free breakfasts and lunches at sites throughout Long Island.
- The programs run from the end of school until it starts again in September. Meals are served at summer and day camps, community centers, libraries, churches and community-based organizations.
- An interactive USDA online map helps families search for a service site by address, city or ZIP code.
Food donated through the drive will end up in pantries or at feeding sites operated by the nonprofit. King Kullen, ShopRite of Bay Shore and ShopRite of Massapequa have each donated 250 pounds of food to the effort.
Long Island Cares supports 24 summer food service sites throughout Long Island and last year provided more than 50,000 meals to children in need during the summer, according to Jessica Rosati, Long Island Cares vice president of programs.
It was the first day for Long Island Cares' summer feeding site in Shirley Thursday and a handful of children sat at a table and were served a meal that included chicken salad, crackers, diced peaches and milk. The agency partners with Lighthouse Mission, where the parents of the children picked up groceries for the week while the kids ate.
Kerry Tooker, manager of Child Nutrition Programs for Long Island Cares, said participation will grow as families become more aware of the feeding site.
"We have already had parents come and say, "My child's at home — next time I will bring them,'" she said.
Summer can be challenging for families, experts said. According to the data from the New York State Education Department, about 145,000 Long Island schoolchildren are considered economically disadvantaged.
Island Harvest Food Bank’s Summer Food Service Program, administered by the Food and Nutrition Service, an agency of the USDA, serves a mix of breakfasts and lunches during the week. That program runs until Sept. 2 and is expected to provide 50,000 meals to approximately 1,800 children at 29 sites across Long Island this summer. Those sites also provide education about nutrition and other resources to families.
Randi Shubin Dresner, president and chief executive of Island Harvest, said her organization has seen a jump in need because of inflation and changes in federal food assistance programs. The number of people accessing food at a Melville distribution center jumped 199% from December to March, she said. Children being home in the summer also makes resources even more tighter for families, she said.
"We always talk about how excited people are to get out of school and to participate in summer activities," she said. "But for many kids, they don't talk about it, but they're not so excited because of what they're faced with. Food insecurity is a real problem … It's a long summer. Kids are out playing — they use up more energy, and many of them just don't have access, so we're honored to be able to support so many kids through our summer feeding program."
Last month, the State Education Department announced the kickoff of the 2023 Summer Food Service Program. which will provide free meals to approximately 400,000 young people at nearly 2,500 sites statewide. An interactive USDA online map helps families search for a service site by address, city or ZIP code.