Riverhead families in need will have weekly access to free produce, meats and more as a mobile food pantry will stop at all five Riverhead elementary schools next year, district officials announced Tuesday.
Long Island Cares has secured a grant that will help bring a mobile food pantry to Aquebogue, Phillips Avenue, Riley Avenue, Roanoke Avenue and Pulaski Street elementary schools, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction Christine Tona said at Riverhead’s school board meeting last Tuesday.
The new pantries will likely be open to the public weekly, said Jessica Rosati, Long Island Cares chief programs officer.
According to 2017 data from the United States Census Bureau, 15.7% of Riverhead residents are living in poverty — the lowest of all the townships in Suffolk County.
Superintendent Aurelia Henriquez said Riverhead and the surrounding areas are almost the highest concentrations of families living in poverty on all of Long Island.
“What does that mean for us? What has that meant for us?” she asked.
The solution, she said, is taking the whole-child approach — which includes improving the district’s on-site food banks.
The new mobile food pantry will supplement the existing food pantry at Phillips Avenue school, Ms. Tona said.
Last year, the district partnered with Long Island Cares to produce food for the district on a monthly basis.
In 2016, Ms. Rosati obtained a grant that provided the district’s first mobile food pantry at Roanoke and Phillips Avenue elementary schools. The pantry provides meat, fresh produce and nutritional education to students and their families. They have also provided books, school supplies and coats during winter months.
Last week, the district went Casual for a Cause — where students, faculty and staff were encouraged to dress casually and make a donation to help support Long Island Cares.
District officials presented Ms. Rosati with the funds raised last week during the fundraiser and recognized the continued efforts of the nonprofit.
“We’re truly appreciative of all of your efforts to help our community,” Ms. Tona said.
Ms. Tona said over 2,000 Riverhead residents have benefited from the Long Island Cares mobile food pantry this year. That represents 48.9% increase in the number of families that were served last year, she said.
Further details regarding the time and whereabouts of the new mobile pantries, and additional information on the grant, will be disclosed at a press conference at the end of June, Ms. Rosati said.