Parked outside Roanoke Avenue Elementary School last Thursday afternoon, volunteers from Long Island Cares filled bags with corn, apples, ground turkey and more for community members in need.
The goal is to provide needy families in the area with access to healthy, nutritious food. The items distributed, which also included backpacks for students, are available to anyone in the Riverhead community who needs the support, said Jessica Rosati, chief programs officer for Long Island Cares.
Long Island Cares is a 501(c)(3) registered charity that aims to “improve food security for families, sponsor programs that help families achieve self-sufficiency, and educate the general public about the causes and consequences of hunger on Long Island,” its website reads.
“We were talking and a lot of people who live west of Riverhead don’t realize poverty does exist on the East End of Long Island,” district Superintendent Aurelia Henriquez said. “Many families are considered the working poor. In education, we’re concerned about the welfare of the child, which includes social and emotional wellness, nutrition and diet. It all goes hand in hand with academic success.”
The Riverhead Central School District has over 5,000 enrolled students, 62 percent of whom receive free or reduced price lunches, the district said.
The school district is looking to offer the mobile pantry, which distributes food produced on Long Island, once a month for the remainder of the school year.
The mobile pantry was brought to Riverhead by Dr. Henriquez and Dr. Rosati, who piloted the program four years ago in Brentwood, where Dr. Henriquez worked before coming to Riverhead.
Dr. Rosati said it’s important to partner with school districts because they have direct access to those in need in the community.
This is not the first food-based community program the Riverhead school district has implemented. The district has also partnered with Island Harvest — which in June reached a 20-year, no-cost lease agreement with John King, owner of the Riverhead Ciderhouse, for use of a 22,000-square-foot warehouse — for its Weekend Backpack Feeding Program and the many programs it operates with other schools and community organizations.
The Riverhead program provides backpacks of healthy food to students from three Riverhead schools who rely on school meals and may not receive solid nutrition on weekends.
In January 2015, Phillips Avenue Elementary School also opened the district’s first in-house food pantry to benefit students and parents in the community who may not have access to enough food for their families.
Food pantry schedule
The Long Island Cares mobile food pantry will be at Roanoke Avenue Elementary School from 5 to 7 p.m. on the following dates:
Friday, Oct. 27
Thursday, Nov. 30
Wednesday, Dec. 20
Thursday, Jan. 25
Wednesday, Feb. 28
Thursday, March 29
Thursday, April 26
Wednesday, May 30
Thursday, June 21
Photo caption: Volunteers fill bags with corn, apples and more to be distributed to local families in need on Sept. 28 at Roanoke Avenue Elementary School. (Credit: Nicole Smith)