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Garden City Life - Schools

Service Learning With Long Island Cares

Students in Mrs. Beovich’s seventh grade Home and Careers classes learned about hunger on Long Island through a unique program with Long Island Cares, Long Island’s food bank and food pantry. They watched a video explaining the origin of the charity, how it works and who it serves, along with information about its founder, Huntington native singer/songwriter Harry Chapin, who died tragically in 1981.

Students used the Peapod website to calculate how much a typical day’s meals cost for each of them. They were then each assigned to an actual person’s biography. These were people (names changed) who had previously been helped by Long Island Cares. Based on the individual’s situation and finances, students calculated how much money they had left from their incoming funds for daily food, after deductions for rent, utilities, transportation and other expenses were made. The students were all surprised to see how little these families had left to spend on food, compared to what the students’ daily meals cost.

A representative from Long Island Cares spoke to each class, explaining how the organization helps Long Islanders, including recently dispensing $50,000 to Sandy victims to help replace appliances lost in the storm. In a fun and enlightening simulation, students were each given “Long Island Cares” dollars according to how much they had available for food in a day. They went to a social services station to see if they were eligible for SNAP (formerly known as Food Stamps.). Only U.S. citizens who make less than $1,000 a month are eligible, so most students were not able to get this assistance.

Next, the students were surprised when they went to the Emergency Money station and were given a form to fill out to apply for cash. The form was written in gibberish and they, of course, couldn’t understand it, but were told that they couldn’t have help with it. It made the students realize how hard it is for people without an education or whose first language isn’t English to receive assistance.

Lastly, they went to the “supermarket.” They had to try to buy the most nutritious and filling food for their families with their limited amount of money. In each class, many only had enough to buy junk food or carbohydrates, and no protein, fruit or vegetables.

The students commented they actually felt what it was like to be down on their luck, unemployed, or just not have enough food to feed their families. They experienced a small understanding of what it must be like to have this problem – a problem that many on Long Island, not just the homeless, struggle with each day.

The unit culminated with a month-long food drive. All the collected food, baby products, and school supplies were donated to Long Island Cares. This was especially helpful at a time when the coffers are particularly low. People typically give a lot at Thanksgiving and in December, but with children soon being off all summer and not receiving free lunches at school, it is especially important that food pantries are well stocked at this time of year.

This was quite a worthwhile learning experience for all the students. They heard about Mrs. Beovich’s visit with Harry Chapin in 1976, and listened to songs written and sung by him, such as, “Cat’s in the Cradle,” “All My Life’s a Circle,” and, a favorite, “30,000 Pounds of Bananas.”