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Shelter Island Reporter editorial: Helping hands

Recently we ran a brief about Shelter Island School National Honor Society members completing a food drive to help stock The Food Pantry at the Presbyterian Church.

The students collected over 500 items and $100 for the Pantry, where folks can pick up food and personal care items for free. We salute the students, and their adviser Janine Mahoney, for helping those in need. And for reminding us of our duty as members of a community to lend a hand to fight food insecurity afflicting some of our neighbors.

The Food Pantry is managed by selfless volunteers, who deserve our thanks. To donate food, personal care items or money to the Pantry, email: [email protected].

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), food insecurity “describes a household’s inability to provide enough food for every person to live an active, healthy life.” In practical terms, it means people are involuntarily cutting back on meals or not knowing where the next meal is coming from.

Long Island Cares, a nonprofit food provider, estimates that 234,000 of our neighbors — including 65,000 children — in the region receive emergency food each year.

Long Island Cares can be reached at 631-582-3663, or i[email protected].

Closer to home is the poverty on Shelter Island, which many of us don’t see. But School Nurse Mary Kanarvogel does, every day. She’s told the Reporter that “In the dead of winter, it gets rough. I do a lot of field work with the Lions Club to distribute IGA food cards, to help families with heat and coats, or help kids who don’t have money for a school trip.”

The Lions continue to do extraordinary work helping neighbors in need. Contact the Club at [email protected].

And at the recent pancake dinner at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, donations totaling $500 went to the Food Pantry.

Southold’s Center for Advocacy, Support and Transformation (CAST) has a food van making regularly scheduled trips to the Island providing free, fresh food for individuals and families. CAST — [email protected] — has also opened another front in the local battle against poverty, partnering with Stony Brook Eastern Long Island Hospital in Greenport to combat health inequity and food insecurity.

The “Food as Medicine” program connects qualified hospital patients to CAST, giving them access to the nonprofit’s food pantry and other services. The new partnership with the hospital “is not just about food access, it’s about health intervention,” said Karina Hayes, manager of CAST’s food relief program. The initiative is aimed at addressing and preventing chronic health conditions among CAST clients and in the community, according to executive director Cathy Demeroto.

“We want to ensure we are providing, through our food relief programs, nutrition that not only addresses the immediate hunger and food insecurity, but will prevent or help with any chronic illnesses that our clients are experiencing,” Ms. Demeroto said.

Every Eastern Long Island Hospital patient is screened for food insecurity and, if deemed at risk, receives a tote bag of food from the hospital’s food pantry when they are discharged.

When a patient is identified as food insecure, the hospital’s social workers and case managers complete a referral to CAST. From that point, CAST contacts the individual to complete an intake screening and links them to its multitude of services.

Congratulations again to our National Honor Society members, and Ms. Mahoney, and everyone in the community who are helping their neighbors.