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Long Island Rail Road, postal service calling on Long Islanders to feed the hungry

Stamp Out Hunger representatives are, from left, AFL-CIO

Stamp Out Hunger representatives are, from left, AFL-CIO official Chris Natale, LIRR president Helena Williams, Island Harvest president and chief executive Randi Shubin Dresner, and Stop & Shop district director Bob Hempson. (May 8, 2013) Credit: Howard Schnapp

While catching a morning train Thursday, commuters at three Long Island Rail Road stations can also stomp out hunger.

LIRR president Helena Williams announced Wednesday morning that through a partnership with Island Harvest, the LIRR will hold a food drives Thursday at its Mineola, Hicksville and Ronkonkoma stations. Between 6 a.m. and 10 a.m., train riders, LIRR employees and nearby residents are being asked to drop off nonperishable, canned or packaged food at these locations.

The items will be delivered to Island Harvest, whose volunteers will quickly pack and deliver the food to some of the 570 pantries that the organization serves across Long Island.

“Island Harvest described to us a situation in the post-Sandy time period [in which] food supplies were dangerously low and we needed to restock the shelves,” said Williams on how the partnership came about.

Williams said she picked Mineola, Hicksville and Ronkonkoma stations because of their location and high volume of commuters.

According to Randi Shubin Dresner, president and chief executive of Island Harvest, in a typical year, 300,000 people on Long Island -- one of every 10 residents -- struggle to feed themselves. That figure is even higher, she said -- an estimated 20,000 more -- due to the impact of superstorm Sandy.

“These people have just so much expendable funds and resources and if they put that money into food then they don’t have it to fix up their homes,” said Shubin Dresner.

In addition to the LIRR’s food drive, the National Association of Letter Carriers and the United States Postal Service will also once again be collecting nonperishable items for Island Harvest this Saturday for the 21st Stamp Out Hunger campaign.

Residents across Long Island who wish to participant should leave canned and packaged food items near their mailboxes Saturday morning, and they will be picked up by the postal carriers as they deliver mail along their routes.

Last year, the mail carriers collected 440,000 pounds of food donated by Long Islanders. Through this campaign and other efforts across the region, Island Harvest was able to distribute more than 9.5 million meals in 2012 to Long Islanders in need.

The donations go to people like Wanda Faison, 44, of Shirley. For nearly two decades, Faison, a single mother of two and a grandmother, has relied off and on the food Island Harvest supplies to her local pantry, the Lighthouse Mission in Patchogue, depending on her financial situation. The pantry’s mobile mission comes to her area once a week and she is able to get food and household supplies for her family including diapers for her 2-year-old grandson.

“I’m a full-time worker, but still it’s hard to make ends meet,” said Faison, who is currently employed as an intake specialist for a company in Hauppauge that helps people obtain social security and disability benefits.

Last year, Faison really came to rely on the food from Island Harvest to feed her family when a blood disorder put her out of work and kept her home for four months. She had no income, and the state aid she was eligible for didn’t come in until it was almost time for her return to work.

“The need is great,” she said of hunger on Long Island. “This helps someone to help someone to help someone and .?.?. people are very grateful for what they receive.”

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