The food supply at the nonprofit Lighthouse Mission in Bellport is quickly running out, and organizers there say the shelves could be bare by next week.
"We're coming to the end of this week not knowing how we're going to supply next week," said Tracie Nielsen, operations director for the Bellport group, which provides food to as many as 600 people a week.
At issue is grant money that the state hasn't delivered since April, said Paule Pachter, executive director of the Hauppauge food bank Long Island Cares, which distributes the funding to about 330 food pantries. Pachter said other pantries could soon find their shelves getting bare.
The money is part of the Hunger Prevention and Nutrition Assistance Program, a state program that sends funds to Long Island Cares to administer.
The state budget crisis caused a delay in payments for this and other programs beginning in April, according to Erik Kriss, a spokesman for the state's budget office.
State officials said they expect such funding to be processed soon. "We now have full-year spending authority," Kriss said Wednesday. But he cautioned that the state is moving slowly because Albany has not yet approved a full budget.
Long Island Cares has been pitching in its own money - almost $350,000 for April, May and June to cover the HPNAP funds it would have distributed to the food pantries. But Pachter said his group can't keep fronting the money for July.
"Everything is being held hostage," he said.
Sara C. Weiss, director of development for the Long Island Council of Churches, which runs emergency food pantries, is one such group. But her organization also has the benefit of a $100,000 grant from the Unitarian Universalist Congregation at Shelter Rock that is earmarked for food.
Pachter said the Lighthouse Mission is welcome to request supplies from the pool of donated food that Long Island Cares has obtained.
Even with food supplies low, Nielsen said, the group plans on conducting its usual 10 weekly giveaways to various neighborhoods in Suffolk County.
"We'll continue to go out, even if it's water we're bringing out," she said.
How to help
The Lighthouse Mission accepts monetary gifts and donations of nonperishable food, such as peanut butter, pasta and soups. The group can be reached at 631-758-7584 or at lighthousemission.net.
Food bank Long Island Cares also accepts gifts of money and food donations. Contact them at 631-582-FOOD or licares.org.