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Food distributor defies ban at Freeport development

Joanna Bell-Richards, left, of Harvest for the World

Joanna Bell-Richards, left, of Harvest for the World is greeted by James Cobbs, right, a resident at the Dr. E. Mitchell Mallette Senior Citizen Apartments in Freeport, as she arrives to distribute food and supplies to residents on Thursday, Nov. 5, 2015. Photo Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara

Harvest of the World distributed canned food, water, and toilet and kitchen cleaning supplies to about 70 tenants at a Freeport senior housing complex Thursday, defying the village housing authority ban of the supplier.

"I will get this food to these good people as long as I can, and I don't understand the housing director's calling our food 'outdated,' said Joanna Bell-Richards of Uniondale, head of the charitable food organization.

Last week, Freeport Housing Authority executive director John J. Hvartin had a note sent to each of the 100 units at 100 N. Main St., announcing they had "discontinued the program . . . due to the fact that the food was outdated."

Last week and Thursday, residents still flocked to the food, delivered on the street from a van right outside of the building.

Hvartin had previously moved Thursday afternoon's giveaway from the complex's community room to the parking lot, and last week's note moved them from there as well.

"I had a lot of complaints," he said. He said residents had complained that items they received were 30 to 60 days old. Martin S. Cohen, assistant executive director of a large food bank in Stamford, Connecticut, said people often confuse the "sell by date," which is the date after which the food producer does not want its product sold in stores, with the expiration date. The former does not mean that the food goes bad after that date, he said.

According to the USDA, except for "use-by" dates, even if the date expires during home storage, a product should be safe, if handled properly. Canned foods are safe indefinitely as long as they are not dented, rusted, swollen or exposed to freezing temperatures, or temperatures above 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32.2 degrees Celsius).

On Thursday, while not changing his stance, Hvartin said Bell-Richards "is allowed to give out food anywhere she likes, and the people have the right to take that food. I just can't be a party to it. I just want to do the best for our tenants."

Bell-Richards, who said she never delivers outdated food, said at the site Thursday that she hopes this "outdated" idea can be fixed. "I wish Mr. Hvartin had checked this out more thoroughly, including talking to us, when somebody brought this to him. This is not us."

Her daughter Angelica Bell, of Roosevelt, a registered nurse, who frequently helps her mother with deliveries, said she often talks with tenants about food-related health issues, "including not to eat old food."

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