Written by Betsy Abraham, firstname.lastname@example.org Wednesday, 13 November 2013 10:42
America is known as the land of plenty, but for many Americans, not having enough food is a daily battle. According to recent statistics, one in every six households nationwide is food insecure and almost four percent of Hicksville’s population lives below the poverty line. Hicksville United Methodist Church (HUMC) is seeking to help the needy population of Hicksville and beyond with their food pantry, which has put food on the tables of many local community members.
Since opening in October 2007, the pantry has helped dozens of local community members get back on their feet. People from Hicksville and surrounding areas such as Plainview, Westbury and Levittown can come to the pantry on Friday mornings and get proteins, canned vegetables, pastas, cereals and more, for three days. Anywhere from 24 to 38 people visit each week, and with seasonal workers and day laborers having no work during the winter, food pantry volunteer Kathy Nannini expects that number to rise for the season.The food pantry has a fair share of homeless clients. Judy Frankson has been in charge of the pantry since it's inception and estimates that the pantry serves about 12 homeless people on a regular basis and staff go out of their way to help them, setting aside easy open cans or Ensure nutritional drinks.
When clients come in for the first time, they undergo an interview where food pantry staff will determine if they meet eligibility guidelines (which is based on financial status) and how often they are qualified to come to the pantry.
“Some people have nothing so they come every week. Some people have Social Security and just need a little help so they come twice a month,” says Frankson.
Unlike other food pantries in the area, HUMC will provide food to clients regardless of where they live. But if there’s a food pantry closer to their hometown, staff will suggest they go to that one.
The pantry is “client choice,” which means each person gets to choose what to take, instead of being handed a bag of items. Clients get to choose (based on certain guidelines) foods from shelves labeled with different categories, such as proteins, pastas, canned vegetables, snacks and cereals. As an emergency pantry, clients are able to take enough food to last them three days.
Some items come from food banks such as Long Island Cares and Island Harvest, while other donations come from church members and local community organizations in the area.
At the beginning of the school year, the pantry was able to provide school supplies and throughout the year, they also give away donated clothes, which Frankson says fly off the hangers. The clothes are a huge benefit for people, as she recalls a young woman who found an interview outfit at the pantry.
“She was able to get the job,” Frankson says. “And she still wears the jacket she got from here.”
Staff at the pantry are also able to refer clients to invaluable services, such as health care centers and social services. And for some clients, coming to the pantry is the only social interaction they have during the week.
“Some of the clients have no one to talk to them,” says Frankson. “But they come here and we greet them and talk to them, and they leave here smiling.”
While seeing many of the same faces each week allows staff to establish relationships with clients, Nannini says the true victories are when clients start not coming back.
“When we see people not coming back, it means we’ve helped someone, and they don’t need our services anymore,” she says.
Over the past year she's been volunteering, Nannini's found herself learning a lot from the people she serves each week.
“It’s very rewarding to see these people so thankful for what we give them and to know that you’re truly helping someone,” she said. “And it shows how much we take for granted. These people don’t have the convenience of going to the cabinet and choosing what to eat. And you never know, tomorrow it could be us.”
The pantry is currently gearing up for Thanksgiving, preparing to buy chickens, turkeys and side dishes to feed around 35 families. The pantry will provide needy families a package of a chicken or turkey (they hand out an average of 50 already cooked chickens, and 10 frozen turkeys), instant mix packages for side dishes such as mashed potatoes and stuffing, and a pie.
The food pantry is open on Fridays from 9:30 a.m. to noon, and HUMC is always looking for donations and volunteers. To find out more information, call 516-931-2626 or visit www.hicksvilleumc.com