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Fruitcake? Holiday food gifts? Donate them to pantries, LI Council of Churches says

The Long Island Council of Churches, facing rising demand at the three food pantries it operates, issued an appeal Monday for canned and packaged food that has passed its use-by date or holiday gift foods such as fruitcake.

"Some of us actually like fruitcake and look forward to receiving it in December, even if others would rather use these gifts as doorstops," said the Rev. Tom Goodhue, the council's executive director. "If you belong to the latter group, why not give them to your local food pantry?"

The council's appeal comes as the organization struggles to meet the food needs of 2,200 Long Islanders each month, a 10 percent increase from last year, Goodhue said. The council, which operates pantries in Hempstead, Riverhead and Freeport, in October served 1,709 people at the Freeport pantry, the most of any location in the organization's history, he said.

That increase in demand is colliding with donor fatigue after the holidays, Goodhue said. "The tendency is for people to give when the emotional tug is on their hearts, which tends to be around Thanksgiving, Christmas -- it kind of goes away after that."

Outdated food is a largely ignored resource, Goodhue said. The council has been issued a New York State food salvaging license and pantry staff are trained to determine whether donations are safe to distribute.

Most packaged food is edible past the date stamped on its packaging, Goodhue said. He cited a recent donation of hundreds of pounds of outdated beef bouillon that took about a month to distribute to hungry Long Island households.

"The bad news is that we're almost overwhelmed each month," Goodhue said. "The good news is that we've managed to keep up."

Rusted cans, cans dented along the seams, outdated baby food and infant formula should be discarded, Goodhue cautioned.

Donations for the LICC pantries may be dropped off in Hempstead at Christ's First Presbyterian Church, 1644 Denton Green, Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; in Freeport at 450 N. Main St., Monday to Friday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; and in Riverhead at 407 Osborne Ave., Monday to Friday 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

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