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Post-Irene, gathering markets' food for poor

The Whole Foods supermarket in Jericho didn't have electricity Tuesday, but it still had one customer: Long Island Food Not Bombs, a food-recovery group that takes unsaleable but still edible food from supermarkets and distributes it to food pantries and the hungry.

Karen Greene, a manager at Whole Foods, said her store called Food Not Bombs after the store lost power Sunday morning to salvage food that would otherwise spoil.

"We've been working with them throughout the power outage to make sure as much as possible is still getting used," Greene said. "We know Food Not Bombs is taking it to places where it's going to be used immediately."

The group's co-founder, Jon Stepanian of Huntington, said he and several hundred volunteers have collected more than 80,000 pounds from area grocery stores in the past several days, much of it from stores that lost power during Tropical Storm Irene.

"We got 7,000 pounds of frozen food from the Whole Foods in Lake Grove -- ice cream, frozen pizzas, frozen meals," Stepanian said. "It all would have been trash."

The group, founded in 2006, has distribution points throughout Long Island at which it brings the food directly to people -- such as Tuesday night's distribution in Huntington Station -- but it also provides goods to soup kitchens and food pantries.

In Irene's aftermath, Long Island Food Not Bombs donated several thousand pounds to the Long Island chapter of the American Red Cross. Red Cross spokesman Sam Kille said the organization was "very grateful."

Another delivery was scheduled Tuesday to the Long Island Council of Churches' Freeport food pantry -- welcome news to executive director Tom Goodhue.

"The shelves are just about bare," Goodhue said.

But it's not just grocery stores that are urged to help. Cynthia Sucich, spokeswoman for the Interfaith Nutrition Network in Hempstead, said she's been asking people who purchased nonperishable foods in preparation for Sunday's storm to consider donating the unused food to the hungry.

"Now that we have made it through the storm, there are still people who are living in the storm," she said. "We don't want to forget about them."

The INN had to throw out a lot of food because of its own power outage. "It has been a huge loss of food," Sucich said.

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