As food insecurity spikes, Island Harvest opens new Melville warehouse

A staff of much more than a dozen volunteers get the job done the assembly line, packing up 35-pound boxes stuffed with cereal, peanut butter, milk and fruit for very low-cash flow seniors when construction crews set up a enormous 4,300-square-foot freezer that will soon be stocked with meat and other frozen meals. 

Island Harvest Food Bank’s new 43,000-sq. foot warehouse in Melville, which will host its formal grand opening Thursday, is nearly double the size of its former headquarters in Hauppauge, with extra office environment space for training systems, cooking demonstrations and pc teaching.

The $8.1 million facility on Spagnoli Highway, which to start with opened early final yr, is drastically essential in the local community, officials said.

With inflation continuing to dig a deeper hole in the pockets of Extensive Islanders, and many still struggling with the aftereffects of the COVID-19 pandemic, meals insecurity is a rising trouble in the region.

“The desire is going up and so the want for our providers are going up,” said Randi Shubin Dresner, president and chief govt of Island Harvest, including that the price to order, supply and distribute food stuff in the neighborhood has also skyrocketed. “Even even though it’s costing us far more money, far more men and women want our solutions. It is really very similar to what transpired throughout the pandemic. And just about every other disaster that we respond to. We are actually dwelling as a result of a crisis each day when we are working with the disaster of hunger.”

Inside Island Harvest's new Melville building and warehouse on Wednesday.

Inside of Island Harvest’s new Melville setting up and warehouse on Wednesday.
Credit: Howard Schnapp

At the peak of the pandemic, Island Harvest was serving about 600,000 Extended Island households and shifting 18 million lbs of food per year — roughly double the range of prospects and foods distributed before the COVID crisis. 

And when need has declined relatively considering that mid-2020 — Island Harvest is on speed to distribute 14-16 million lbs of food items this yr — Dresner mentioned the superior cost of groceries, gasoline and dwelling heating oil are driving many Lengthy Islanders to one of the hundreds of soup kitchens, shelters, food items financial institutions, religious businesses or educational institutions related with the group.

“There were being many people today who were being doing Okay, masking their costs and just making it by means of,” she reported. “Now they have to come across an supplemental $20, $30, $40 or $50 at the supermarket and … at the gasoline tank,” she claimed. “Where’s that money coming from? … There are a lot of dad and mom that are providing up meals so that their youngsters can take in and then there are other folks that are earning some definitely hard conclusions.”

Other significant Long Island food items pantries are enduring equivalent demand from customers.

Paule Pachter, main government officer of Very long Island Cares-The Harry Chapin Regional Food items Lender in Hauppauge, said, in recent months, they’ve found a 15% spike in visitors to regional foods lender for assistance.

“With the rise in inflation, we have currently assisted an additional 32,000 Extended Islanders turning to the unexpected emergency meals community for the initially time in just the past four months,” he reported. “Our food items costs keep on to increase owing to inflation. Last yr, we were in a position to purchase food stuff at 89 cents for each pound, and currently, we’re paying $1.35 per pound on normal.”

The new warehouse — the team continues to retain warehouse place in Calverton and Uniondale — has allowed Island Harvest to keep appreciably a lot more pallets of nonperishable meals things and fresh create whilst escalating its freezer area by more than 600%. 

But the facility has other advantages. Island Harvest has doubled its staffing to 65 employees, begun a house supply program, created a workforce enhancement plan and will initiate a culinary demonstration heart centered on healthful taking in. And on Thursday, Island Harvest will open a new on-site market where by people can appear in and decide up bags of food directly.

The mission, Dresner reported, is to finish hunger on Prolonged Island.

“Our programming is not just about the food items we’re providing out,” Dresner said. “The entire principle of the operate we are performing is that we want to assistance individuals for now, tomorrow and into the potential. Just supplying a person a can of foodstuff is not likely to conclusion hunger. But it really is likely to enable us with the start off.”