By Danny Schrafel
As they cut the ribbon Friday on the Harry Chapin Food Bank and Humanitarian Center in Huntington Station, Long Island Cares leaders said the new center at 220 Broadway means more advocacy services will be centralized in the township.
Paule Pachter, the CEO of Long Island Cares, said the center represents the Long Island Cares charity’s commitment to “bring Harry Chapin’s vision and Sandy Chapin’s vision back to the town that they called home for so many years” and an increased emphasis on looking at and tackling the root causes of hunger.
“Every time you provide a can of food to someone in need, what we really have to look at is why they need it,” he said. “And that’s what the Harry Chapin Food Bank and Humanitarian Center in Huntington Station is all about.”
In addition to an emergency pantry, the new facility hosts Long Island Cares’ Government Affairs program, with hopes of strengthening social advocacy efforts as well as veterans outreach programs.
Partnerships between the public and private sector allowed the center to open – and open quickly, he said. New York State provides about $1.7 million in funding to administer the regional Hunger Prevention and Nutrition Assistance program along with multiple charitable foundations, including the Townwide Fund and Elks Club, as well as the Huntington Township Chamber of Commerce and other business entities.
Assistance from the Town of Huntington allowed the center to open less than eight weeks after they started to run out of room at the charity’s Hauppauge space. Councilwoman Susan Berland thanked Long Island Cares for choosing Huntington Station – “there are significant parts that are struggling,” she said.
“No doubt, Harry is very pleased right now in terms of what we’re doing,” Supervisor Frank Petrone added.
County Executive Steve Bellone said it’s important for government to partner with charities that can respond “quickly and nimbly in an innovative fashion.”
“It’s because of organizations like Long Island Cares… that people are getting the assistance that they need,” he said.
State officials, Pachter said, have consistently backed their anti-hunger efforts. State Senator Carl Marcellino (R-Syosset) said that support will continue.
“No one should have to worry where their next meal is coming from,” Marcellino said. “It is the job of government and the elected officials who represent the people… to make sure we do everything we can to support organizations like this one and others that are taking care of people in need.”
Pachter said Long Island Cares, which was launched shortly before Harry Chapin’s death in 1980 and was Long Island’s first food bank and just third in the nation, has evolved greatly in the last six years, pioneering new approaches to addressing hunger, food insecurity and providing hunger relief services for more than 316,000 people on Long Island. Those include mobile outreach units to aid the homeless, the homebound, and disabled veterans; a specialized veterans outreach program; and the northeast’s first pet pantry, Baxter’s Pet Pantry, which provides over 500,000 pounds of cat and dog food per year.
They also pioneered the community-based satellite storefront concept in Freeport in 2009, which is now in place in Huntington Station.
Long Island Cares is also likely America’s first food bank to have a mascot – a green dragon now named Aspara-Gus. The point, Pachter said, is to bring the message to children and families “that no child on Long Island should be hungry.”
Right now, approximately 70,000 children are, he explained.
“We want to get children excited about helping other children,” he said.