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The New Face of "Hunger for the Holidays" in NY

December 24, 2007

Mineola, NY - Santa may find an empty cookie plate in some houses tonight, because many Long Islanders don't have much food to spare. Their friends and neighbors still have time to help fill the gap, even though a campaign to collect 22,000 turkeys for food baskets is 15,000 short.

Randi Shubin Dresner works with Island Harvest, which supervises a food network of nearly 500 community nonprofit groups across Long Island. She says local food banks that usually help stock holiday tables are coming up short on donations, while at the same time they see more families asking for help. Most notably, she adds, it's working families who are asking for a helping hand as they find it harder and harder to make their food dollars stretch.

"The face of hunger surprises many people. The majority of people in hunger situations are working people trying to make ends meet. Often they've lost their jobs because of downsizing."

National food networks are reporting a 40 percent increase in demand this year, with double that in parts of New York City and more than 2 million hungry statewide. But Dresner says there's still hope that local generosity will help make up the difference.

"It could be your neighbor, it could be your relatives. What we're doing is really helping to reduce a lot of the struggle that these families have, so that they can concentrate on getting themselves out of their problems. And that's what's so wonderful about this community this time of year."

Island Harvest's hotline for holiday food donations is 516-294-8528, or visit the Island Harvest website, www.islandharvest.org. Statewide information for food donors is available from New York State Foodbanks, www.endhungerny.org.

Robert Knight/Craig Eicher, Public News Service - NY