A full stomach may hurt sometimes, but not around the holidays.
The holiday season is typically the busiest time of year for food pantries like those at the Sound Beach Community Church and St. Louis de Montfort Roman Catholic Church in Sound Beach. Each year the Sound Beach Civic Association sponsors one family from each church during the holidays. In light of this, Bea Ruberto, president of the Sound Beach Civic Association, said they thought their meeting on Monday, Nov. 9, was a good opportunity to discuss the churches’ work.
St. Louis de Montfort is no stranger to running a pantry. According to Jane Guido, the church’s outreach director, the facility established its pantry around 25 years ago. Around 150 families are registered for the pantry services at the church. The church saw an increase in those in need during the recession when countless businesses downsized staff and many were left without a job.
“A lot of our local families who were okay now find themselves without a job or [they’re] getting a job with less pay,” Guido said. “With the high cost of living on Long Island, it makes it very difficult to take care of the bills and the food.”
Though St. Louis de Montfort doesn’t prevent people of different faiths from using its pantry services, community members must live within the areas the church serves. This includes Sound Beach, Mount Sinai and Miller Place. While the church receives monetary donations and local organizations like schools, the fire department and the Girls and Boys Scouts donate food, Long Island Cares provides a good portion of food for both church pantries.
According to Hunger in America 2014, around 88 percent of households are food insecure within the Long Island Cares and Island Harvest area.
“It’s really sad to know that in an area that’s pretty well off, we need two pantries,” Ruberto said.
Pastor John D’Eletto of the Sound Beach Community Church said various organizations also donate food to his establishment. Members of the church also support by donating money, which goes toward buying food for the pantry. According to D’Eletto, the church’s five-year-old pantry serves 10 to 15 families weekly.
“We feel that because we’re a church, we have to go above and beyond just giving people food,” D’Eletto said. “Because we do care — we want to focus on the spiritual aspect of the people too — not just giving them physical things.”
D’Eletto’s church will also cater to residents facing additional hardships through prayer, to help them through their difficulties.
But one of the more difficult times for families to put food on the table doesn’t stop with the holidays. Ruberto said January and February are also difficult months for food pantries. According to the Sound Beach civic president, food donations slow down significantly following the holiday season.
“Yes, we’re all very generous over the holidays, but remember in February they still need food,” she said.
Guido added that pantries are an asset to the communities they serve.
“They know they have a place to go and get food … We live in a remote area [and] there’s not [many] places for people go,” Guido said. “There are soup kitchens, which are a blessing, but that’s only one day a week and one meal a day, so the pantry supplements that also.”