Step up to the plate to feed hungry Long Islanders

Step up to the plate to feed hungry Long Islanders

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Charity shouldn’t be seasonal. Donate money or food during the summer, when some children who rely on school lunch programs need it the most. File photo by Elana Glowatz

Every fall and winter, good-hearted Long Islanders far and wide reach into their pockets to donate goods and food in the spirit of the holidays.

It’s so easy to imagine life without a jacket or a warm Thanksgiving dinner when it’s November or December. You won’t have to look hard to find numerous coat drives and food drives around that time of the year. And that’s a great thing. But it’s not enough.

Summer hunger pangs exist right in our own backyard. And they are growing Island-wide — particularly among children who rely on school lunch programs but don’t have access to that food during the summer.

Island Harvest food bank, a hunger relief organization based in Mineola, reported earlier this month that it expanded its summer-food service program. Last summer, they served 103,000 meals to 3,500 kids at 49 sites throughout the Island. This year, they anticipate dishing out more than 175,000 meals to about 4,000 children at 55 sites.

Those are some eye-opening statistics, especially when you consider what we already know about hunger on Long Island. A 2010 national study prepared for Island Harvest and another nonprofit, Long Island Cares, claims 283,700 people on Long Island receive emergency food each year. Of that group, 39 percent are under 18 years old.

For many of us who are fortunate, summer is our kick-back-and-relax season — a chance for us to embark on those sun-soaked vacations and long weekend trips or just leave work early on Fridays. But there are some who can’t afford to get away, and constantly struggle to make ends meet.

We urge our fellow Long Islanders to channel the holiday spirit this summer. Pitch in by donating money, your time or food. Grab a cardboard box your local deli may not need and bring it to the office — get your co-workers in on it — and collect some food. Donate the box to your local food pantry.

Charity shouldn’t be seasonal. It’s time we step up to the plate all year long.