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Freeport Housing Authority bans delivery of outdated food to seniors

Joanna Bell-Richards, executive director of Harvest for the

Joanna Bell-Richards, executive director of Harvest for the World, brings food to the senior citizen building on Thursday, Oct. 29, 2015 in Freeport. Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

Despite a Freeport Housing Authority ban on Harvest of the World delivering free food on Thursdays to tenants at the senior complex, the majority of residents are still taking the agency's food.

"If somebody here has a problem with the food, they just should not take it, not mess it up for everybody else," said James Cobb, 72, an eight-year resident of the development at 100 N. Main St.

Executive Director John J. Hrvatin, who had a note placed under the door at each of the site's 100 units, said there were numerous complaints from tenants. "I even saw food [dated] 30 to 60 days old," he said.

His note read: "We discontinued the program . . . due to the fact that the food was outdated."

He said in a telephone interview that the Housing Authority "will not be a part of delivering outdated food to our tenants. That poses a health danger to them."

But Joanna Bell-Richards, of Uniondale, who heads Harvest of the World, said the group plans to give food outside the development as long as residents want it. She said she and her assistants check dates on every box of canned food and dry food cartons, whether donated by supermarkets or larger sister agencies. "We don't accept or give out old food, and none of these residents have ever made that complaint to us."

Hrvatin said he would see if a complainant would talk to Newsday, but 24 hours later none had.

Hrvatin praised another agency -- Island Harvest -- as a "great" agency. It delivers the same kinds of foods to tenants on Wednesdays, he said.

Bell-Richards, too, praised it and said: "It is one of the sister agencies that helps us." Another is Long Island Cares. The two supermarkets are Compare, which is right next door, and Waldbaum's in East Meadow.

She said most of the food is canned -- salmon, tuna, beans and such -- and boxed cereal and shelf-stable milk. Infrequently, deliveries include produce and frozen meats.

"We've been bringing this food for five years. I love the people, and they've grown to love me. I have no idea why this guy, who just got here last year, doesn't like my program. But he's hurting good people."

Mayor Robert Kennedy said that while the authority is an independent agency, he supports "not giving outdated food to residents."

But Ken Mollins, a lawyer for Bell-Richards' agency, said it is a bad decision. "Why make it hard for a charitable organization to do the right thing?

"Why make these elderly people come out in the cold to get a few things to eat?"

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