The face of hunger on Long Island has changed in the last few years, so much so that Island Harvest has invited company executives, entrepreneurs, human resources experts and others to what is expected to be one of the region's largest-ever hunger summits, in September, with a focus on what hunger means for businesses and the local economy.
These days, said Randi Shubin Dresner, Island Harvest's chief executive, hunger is the business executive who has lost his or her job and now works at a big-box retailer for half the pay and now must come to a food pantry. It is the newly unemployed without medical benefits who must choose between medicine and food. Mineola-based Island Harvest serves 285,000 Long Islanders - some 110,000 of them children - a year at food pantries in Nassau and Suffolk counties.
What does this have to do with business? Island Harvest's "Hunger Summit LI: 2010" will show the toll on the local economy of an increasing number of people who do not have enough to eat.
"If people are not eating well and therefore not feeling well, they are not going to be good employees," said Dresner, adding businesses need to understand not only what they can do, but why they need to do it.
"Typically, across the country, we have hunger relief people sitting with hunger relief people," Dresner said. "We wanted to do something different."
Companies that have taken on hunger relief programs, she said, have seen the morale and productivity of their workforce increase.
About 300 people are expected to attend the event Sept. 21 at Adelphi University in Garden City, Dresner said. Adelphi is beginning a two-year study of hunger and nutrition and will use the information that comes out of the summit as the basis for its study.