For the past two years, I have had the privilege of serving as an AmeriCorps Volunteer Coordinator at the Suffolk Y Jewish Community Center. In 2011, I partnered with the Temple Beth David Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program and Long Island Cares, a major food bank, to collect and distribute fresh produce to local food pantries for Care to Share. This initiative, a collaboration of UJA-Federation of New York, AmeriCorps, Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty and Hazon, aims to feed the hungry during the [Sukkot] and harvest season and raise awareness about the importance of healthy eating and nutrition. Volunteers helped promote and support this initiative in Suffolk County by spreading the word and donating fresh fruits and vegetables straight from their home gardens or purchased from a store. Two volunteers I worked closely with, Beth Needleman at Temple Beth David and Elana Sisson at Long Island Cares, played vital roles in helping collect 505 pounds of fresh produce to give to local food pantries, an amazing accomplishment that allowed us to help approximately 490 families on Long Island. We take pride in helping those in need by making their holiday season more abundant and special.
Outside of Long Island, Care to Share has also proved to be an immense success. AmeriCorps Volunteer Coordinators throughout Long Island, Westchester, and the five boroughs of New York City partnered with local CSAs and community gardens to collect over 2,000 pounds of fresh produce to give to the needy during the holidays. As a result of the local partnerships and team efforts, we are now able to sustain this initiative and expand its impact to further fight hunger for our second year.
In addition to Care to Share, we have also taken steps towards establishing a sustainable approach to providing fresh produce for those in need. At the Suffolk Y, we started a food pantry in 2011 as a result of Pack it Up for Purim, a UJA-Federation initiative that, inspired by the holiday tradition of sending mishloach manot food packages to a neighbor, collects healthy food for donation. Since then, our pantry has become the first and only pantry in Commack to become an official member and beneficiary of Long Island Cares, which distributes food to pantries and soup kitchens throughout Suffolk and Nassau Counties. And in August of 2012, we took steps to create a community garden in the back yard of the Suffolk Y to further support Care to Share and those we serve. By starting a community garden, we can afford to give our clients fresh produce year round to supplement the nonperishable items that they would usually receive from our pantry, and continue to encourage them to eat more healthy and nutritiously.
We are thrilled to once again collaborate with UJA-Federation and participate in Care to Share. By reaching out to new CSAs outside of the Hazon Network, our hope for 2012 is to collect even more fresh produce and increase the awareness of hunger and poverty in the New York community. To learn more or find out how you can participate in Care to Share visit: http://www.ujafedny.org/sukkot/.
Amy Lau is a Volunteer Coordinator at the Suffolk Y Jewish Community Center