Riverhead businessman donates warehouse to Island Harvest Food Bank

Island Harvest Food Bank has been helping families for 25 years through programs that provide nutritious food in times of need, whether it be weekly through their Weekend Backpack Feeding Program or after natural disasters, such as Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

Now, thanks to a donation from Riverhead Ciderhouse CEO John King, the hunger relief organization has a 22,000-square-foot warehouse where it can store thousands of boxes of food for distribution to East Enders in need.

“We’re out here all the time,” said Randi Shubin Dresner, CEO of Island Harvest Food Bank. “We run our trucks on a daily basis out here, but now we have a home.”

The warehouse will be used to store food including fresh fruits and vegetables donated by local farms. Island Harvest entered into a 20-year, no-cost lease agreement with Mr. King. The donated space is in the same Sound Avenue building as Riverhead Ciderhouse.

A longtime partner with Island Harvest, Mr. King said the organization has been using the extra space at the warehouse since 2012 but he recently decided to formalize the arrangement and make it more permanent.

“I’ve worked hard in business and God’s been good,” Mr. King said. “If everybody gives back a little a lot of good things happen.”

Many local figures were present at the warehouse Wednesday morning for a ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate the opening of Island Harvest’s third location. It also has a distribution center in Hauppauge, a warehouse in Uniondale and a main office in Bethpage.

The guests included representatives from Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office, Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter, Riverhead Councilman John Dunleavy; and Colleen Cummings, food pantry manager for Community Action Southold Town.

“I am so happy to have Island Harvest in with my distribution,” Ms. Cummings said. “For the 295 families that I serve in one month … they’re so happy to have that extra pasta sauce, or anything, and this is just beyond the goods that they get.”

In addition to partnering with CAST, Island Harvest provides food and produce to other soup kitchens and food pantries, and has its Weekend Backpack Feeding Program — which provides packs of healthy food to students from three Riverhead schools who rely on school meals and may not receive solid nutrition on weekends.

The organization also operates programs at Riverhead Charter School, Riverhead Head Start, North Fork Head Start, BOCES, the Flanders Community Center and more, according to Allison Puglia, vice president of programs and agency relations for Island Harvest.

“Island Harvest Food Bank, in our 25th year, helps about 316,000 people all across Long Island,” Ms. Shubin Dresner said. “[It] is supporting individuals and children who are struggling, oftentimes to find the means for breakfast before they go to school, or helping senior citizens who oftentimes have to choose between paying for medicine and having enough funds to pay for food.”

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Photo credit: Nicole Smith