April 08, 2020

Long Islanders dig deep for virtual food bank

Author: Sylvia Saunders
Source:  NYSUT Communications
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The numbers are staggering: 15,448 pounds of food donated in fewer than five days.

When organizers set up a virtual food bank to help needy Long Island families, their initial goal was collecting 2,000 pounds of food. The online site went live mid-afternoon Friday, and within just a couple of hours, generous donors nearly doubled that goal. By Wednesday, donations topped 15,000 pounds — including 2,575 cans of green beans, 1,650 bags of rice, 318 canisters of quick oats and 208 tubs of disinfectant wipes.

“I’m so proud of our members,” said Brentwood TA President Kevin Coyne, one of several Long Island directors on the NYSUT Board who put out the urgent appeal to local presidents. “You look at the list of donors and there’s an incredible number of individual members, plus so many local union associations.”

Working with NYSUT’s Nassau and Suffolk regional offices, the Long Island leaders organized the virtual food drive with Long Island Cares Inc., a network founded by the late Harry Chapin. Local unions have had a long relationship with the regional group, which includes 349 food pantries and a wide range of programs to help needy families and individuals

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The Long Island leaders issued the call to action after hearing that the regional food bank’s donations were way down, while demand is skyrocketing. “As unemployment hits new highs, the needs of those most vulnerable Long Islanders are even greater,” the letter said. “Food pantries and kitchens (are) stretched thin and need our assistance.”

Going virtual for the food bank is ideal because it targets items most needed right now. Participants are able to scroll down a long list of items and choose whatever they want to give, or they can select food boxes with high-demand items like peanut butter, peaches and Chef Boyardee spaghetti and meatballs.

“Long Island Cares is constantly tracking the inventory so the contributions are going directly for what’s needed at the warehouse,” Coyne said. “So rather than us dropping off 100 rolls of paper towels, we’re replenishing what’s needed most.” The virtual arrangement is also preferable since New Yorkers are urged to stay home and maintain social distance to avoid spreading the virus, Coyne said.

“At some point, we will look back at this time of uncertainty and reflect on a great many things,” the Long Island directors wrote. “We are confident one of those things will be how our union, NYSUT, stood fast to support our members and communities when they needed it most.”

Long Island directors signing the letter were Coyne, John Mansfield, Nancy Sanders, Laura Spencer, Wayne White, Selina Durio, Tomia Smith, Barbara Hafner, Christine Vasilev and Ronald Verderber.

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