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Food Drive

Emmy Specht delivers groceries to her neighbors in Bellport. Photo by Joanne Specht

Since schools shut their doors back in March, one student from The Stony Brook School has been keeping busy helping her neighbors in Bellport to beat food insecurities.

Emmy Specht among food items donated by friends and neighbors. Photo from Joanne Specht

Emmy Specht is spearheading a food drive and fundraising effort for those who have been struggling to buy groceries because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The 17-year-old has been buying and collecting the food and then boxing up and delivering groceries to recipients.

Specht said a few weeks ago she had the idea to start a food drive and contacted Yolanda Lucas, the Day Care and Family Support coordinator at Boys & Girls Club of the Bellport Area. Lucas connected her with those who she knew needed help. Specht started spreading the word, and soon friends and neighbors were dropping off food on her front porch. When she heard that classmates and relatives in the Three Village area wanted to donate but were unable to make the drive to drop off items, she created the fundraising page Food for Suffolk County.

Lucas said she has been impressed by Specht’s endeavor, and how the high school senior took the initiative to contact her and is running the drive on her own. Lucas said it gives her a renewed sense of hope about young people.

“She’s doing it out of a concern for others,” Lucas said.

Specht, who has traveled to school in the Three Village area since she began her academic career in the Laurel Hill School, has been able to deliver food to 10 families each week, and so far she has raised $7,000. She added that her guidance counselor, Debbie Abrahamsen, whose husband, Stan, owns the Chick-fil-A in Port Jefferson, even contributed 30 gift cards for meals which include a sandwich, side and a drink, which she said is helpful for families to get a hot meal.

“It’s really amazing, and I’m really appreciative, especially since I know it’s a challenging time for everyone,” Specht said.

Abrahamsen said she cried when she heard about the student’s endeavor, especially since she recognized that as a senior Specht may be grieving the loss of prom and graduation.

“Instead of it being about her, she’s helping those in need,” the guidance counselor said. “I just think that’s amazing. How many high school seniors have that type of compassion.”

Every week, Specht aims to have three boxes for each family, and even though she isn’t able to meet them face-to-face, Specht has interacted with some from a distance.

Recently, the student received an email from a woman asking for help. The woman had seen the groceries her son had received from Specht and explained to the student how she was disabled, and her fiancé is an essential worker. She lives separately from her son, who has his own family, and in addition to her children living with her and her partner, there is also her mother who lives with them. In the email, the woman said they were using rent money to buy food. The high school senior said thanks to the generous donations she has received; she was able to help the mother’s household too.

Emmy Specht prepares boxes for a recipient. Photo by Joanne Specht

Specht is no stranger to philanthropy. She and her sister Rae, along with friends Maddie Joinnides and Eloise Kocay, founded Four Girls for Families. The nonprofit was inspired by a family visit to Cambodia. Specht’s father, Brian, works for Tara Toy Corporation and travels to China regularly. One year when the family accompanied him on a work trip, they paid a visit to Cambodia.

She said being in Cambodia and seeing kids her age who were unable to have essentials such as an education and clean water affected her greatly.

“That was unsettling to see kids my own age going through something so hard,” she said.

While she and her family visit the country every year, a trip planned for this June had to be canceled due to the pandemic.

Her mother, Joanne Specht, said she wasn’t surprised when Emmy started her food drive as she has always had a soft spot for others, and in addition to Four Girls for Families, her daughter volunteers at Sunrise Day Camp in Wyandanch, which is a camp for children with cancer.

“She’s always looking for ways to help people,” the mother said. “She’s got a very kind heart.”

Emmy Specht said the new fundraising project has taught her about the problems people face on Long Island.

“I’ve never really seen the kinds of needs that are here on Long Island,” she said. “It’s not on the other side of the world. There are also problems here.”

For more information on how to donate to the food drive, visit foodforsuffolkcounty.org.

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In March Three Village Civic Association volunteers, including board member Sotiria Tzakas, delivered food to the Three Village Central School District food pantry. Photo from Three Village Civic Association

The Three Village Civic Association is doing its part to help the community during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The civic association sent an email April 10 to inform members that the group established a Helping Hands program with the aim to deliver up to $100 groceries per week to anyone who needs them.

Those who are unable to leave the house because they may be infected, are one of the people at high risk or are having financial difficulties as a result of the pandemic, can reach out to the civic association for help. Volunteers will shop, pay for and deliver the groceries. Residents who receive assistance are asked to contribute to the program if they can do so.

TVCA President Jonathan Kornreich said more than a dozen people asked for assistance during the first week of the program. He said that more than 20 people have offered to volunteer to help.

“The community is so amazing and ready to help,” Kornreich said, adding that local residents have sent in donations totaling $2,500 so far.

In March the civic association also picked up bags of donated items from residents’ curbs for the Three Village Central School District food pantry.

For more information, visit www.threevillagecivics.org.

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The season for giving is here, and while North Shore residents plan their holiday feasts, it’s a good time to consider the plight of people less fortunate. 

Imagine, more than 89,000 children on Long Island are hungry, according to Hauppauge-based Long Island Cares. These children aren’t dreaming of visions of sugarplums, they are wishing for substantial meals to get them and their families through the day.

Some centers, such as the Community Food Council on East 5th Street in Huntington Station, are reporting a 33 percent increase in demand over the last three months. It’s unclear why the sudden surge in food insecurities but the food banks are in need of supplies and volunteers, and counting on the local community to find ways to pitch in. So, it’s a good time to develop a plan. 

When preparing to donate to a food bank, a good rule of thumb is to call the nonprofit or visit its website to see what is needed. During this time of year, many have volunteers on hand to put together holiday meals. Throughout the year, depending on donations, there may be a surplus of one item and a deficit of another.

While many may be inclined to reach into their pantry to find nonperishables, a cash donation can often be the most beneficial to nonprofits, so they can turn around and buy food in bulk. This can also save volunteers time, because they don’t need to go through items looking at expiration dates.

If one wants to donate food, a trip to the supermarket is the best bet to ensure the donated items aren’t expired. Though if your cabinets are bursting at the seams, reach in and make sure to check expiration dates on cans and boxes. Also, look cans over to ensure they are not dented or leaking and that boxes aren’t damaged. And steer away from food in glass jars as these containers can easily break.

Take into consideration more nutritious options, too, such as cereals high in fiber, whole wheat pasta and low sodium soups and vegetables. When it comes to any kind of mixes, remember many households may be out of milk or eggs, so choose a mix that can be used with water. Another thing to consider is purchasing toiletries such as toothpaste, deodorant, diapers and toilet paper.

To increase the spirit of giving, organize your local Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops or religion classes or get your children involved. Or, if you already know of a group organizing a food drive, contribute your items to the event. Collecting food for those in need is a wonderful way to inspire young ones to help others and it encourages them to continue charitable pursuits when they reach their goals or succeed them.

In our coverage area, in addition to Long Island Cares and the Community Food Council, there are the Smithtown Emergency Food Pantry, St. Anthony of Padua R.C. Church in Rocky Point, St. Cuthbert’s Episcopal Church in Selden, Ecumenical Lay Council Pantry through the First Presbyterian Church in Northport, St. Gerard Majella R.C. Church in Port Jefferson Station, Our Daily Bread Food Pantry in Setauket and many more. 

As the lights come down in a few weeks, remember when it comes to food banks, the hungry keep coming. The spirit of giving can last all year round as these organizations are always in need of donations no matter what month on the calendar.

The gift of time, too, is also a generous way to contribute.

Brookhaven Town will be accepting donations for its food drive to benefit veterans from June 11-29. File photo

Town of Brookhaven’s Division of Veterans Services will be holding a food drive for vets in need from June 11 to 29. Last year’s food drive provided more than 300 bags of food to veterans and their families and was so
successful that the town decided to make it an annual drive.

“Brookhaven Town is home to veterans who have selflessly and courageously served our country,” Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) said. “Many of them need assistance, and when provided with an opportunity, Brookhaven residents always rise to the occasion to help our neighbors in need. I want to thank the Division of Veterans Services and our local VFW representatives for working together to organize this initiative.”

Drop off points for the food drive are:

•Brookhaven Town Hall at 1 Independence Hill in Farmingville

•Henrietta Acampora Recreation Center at 39 Montauk Highway in Blue Point

•Brookhaven Town Highway Department at 1140 Old Town Road in Coram

•Rose Caracappa Senior Center at 739 Route 25A in Mount Sinai

Suggested nonperishables items include, but are not limited to, canned soups, canned fruits and vegetables, pasta, cereal, oatmeal and rice. If you would like to find out more information about this food drive or other services provided by the Division of Veterans Services call 631-451-6574. 

“Brookhaven veterans and their families have sacrificed so much, and it is gratifying to know this drive will provide them with some much-needed relief,” said Councilman Michael Loguercio (R-Ridge). “I encourage residents to donate to this very worthy program and for our veterans to contact the town’s veteran services to find out what benefits you may be entitled to.” 

Kings Park Food Drive

The Kings Park Knights of Columbus will hold its annual food drive on Saturday, April 21 and Sunday, April 22 at the Knights of Columbus Hall, 44 Church St., Kings Park from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Donations will support the needs of local families. Canned and packaged food such as cereal, pasta, peanut butter, jelly, soup, baby food, pancake mix and juice boxes are needed. To arrange a different date for drop-off, please call Bob at 631-724-1410.

February Food Drive

To help give back to the community, Coach Realtors of Stony Brook and Port Jefferson will hold its 4th annual food drive during the month of February for the benefit of the Infant Jesus Food Pantry, Open Cupboard, in Port Jefferson. “Unfortunately during the winter months, the local food pantries are in desperate need of supplies,” said food drive organizer and realtor Debbie Battaglia.

Nonperishable items, including canned foods such as soups and vegetables, diapers and dry or canned pet food, can be dropped off at the Stony Brook office, which is located at 1099 North Country Road, Stony Brook. For a full list of needed items or to arrange a pick-up, email Debbie at [email protected] or call 516-297-6127.

Photo courtesy of Harbor Country Day School Students drop off food collected during the school’s annual drive. Photo courtesy of Harbor Country Day School

On Nov. 21, students from St. James’ Harbor Country Day School delivered nearly 1,000 pounds of nonperishable food items to the Smithtown Emergency Food Pantry. The food was collected through the school’s annual food drive.

“Harbor Country Day is pleased to continue our annual tradition of collecting food for the Smithtown Emergency Food Pantry,” said John Cissel, Head of School at Harbor Country Day. “Our Upper School students, who lead this school-wide effort, take great pride in the role they play in helping people throughout our surrounding communities. As we continue our focus on character development throughout all grades here at Harbor, the Upper School students are setting a remarkable example for their fellow students to follow.”

“We are grateful for the support Harbor Country Day School has given us for the past 15-plus years. We always look forward to seeing the children’s smiling faces as they take time out of their busy school day to visit us,” said Pat Westlake, Director of the Smithtown Emergency Food Pantry. “As a integral member of our community for nearly 60 years, Harbor is a perfect representation of the many wonderful ways we all rally together and lift each other up in times of need.”

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Port Jefferson Station dentist Alan Mazer is reviving his annual holiday food drive later this month to benefit Long Island Cares and the Harry Chapin Food Bank.

Mazer will be accepting donations of nonperishable food and personal care items at his office, at 140 Terryville Road, between Nov. 19 and Dec. 10.

“We hope to collect barrels of nonperishables so that Long Island Cares can do their magic and assist needy children, seniors, the working poor, the disabled and the homeless,” Mazer said in a statement.

The dentist can be reached at 631-473-0666 or at www.dralanmazer.com.

Long Island Cares and its food bank, founded in 1980 by the late Chapin, a Grammy Award-winning songwriter, helps feed hungry individuals and families in Nassau and Suffolk counties. According to the organization’s website, it also has support services for other community organizations, like soup kitchens and emergency shelters, and hosts programs that promote self-sufficiency, such as job training. The group distributes more than 6 million pounds of food every year.

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A food pantry donation. 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.

File photo by Michael Ruiz

Emma Clark Library will keep its summer tradition alive as it hosts the third annual food drive for the entire month of July. Run by the Teen Services Department, volunteers will be collecting toiletries and nonperishable food items to be donated to various food pantries throughout the community.

The teens will help publicize the drive, sort the food and deliver it to the food pantries, a spokeswoman for the library said in an emailed statement.

Donations are very much appreciated, and anyone is welcome to bring in a contribution. Some suggestions for food items include cereal, peanut butter, jelly, canned fruits and vegetables, rice, beans, tuna fish, juice, pasta and pasta sauce.

The food pantries can also use diapers, wipes, toothbrushes, toothpaste, shaving cream, disposable razors, shampoo and conditioner.

Donation boxes will be located at the library, in the lobby to the left of the circulation desk, through July 31.

Last year, a total of 135 bags of food were collected, and the library said its teens hope to surpass that number this year with even more bags.

If you have any questions about the food drive or would like to become a teen volunteer, you may contact Nanette Feder, teen services librarian, at (631) 941-4080 ext. 116 or email her at [email protected]