As of Thanksgiving, Long Island farmers had donated more than half a million pounds worth of produce to Island Harvest, the largest food rescue and distribution organization on Long Island. And while grocers and wholesalers still provide the bulk of the 7 million pounds of food rescued Island-wide, the number of farmers donating has jumped from 3 in 2003 to 19 in 2007.
“Besides helping hungry Long Islanders, we are promoting healthier foods,” says Migdalia Otero, director of operations at Island Harvest. Otero works with Long Island Farm Bureau and regularly visits East End farms to encourage farmers to donate produce, especially late in the season when declining farm stand business often means leaving some crops in the field. “The product received from the farmers gives a meal the balanced nutrition needed.” Island Harvest serves an estimated 338,539 meals each year at its network of soup kitchens, food pantries, shelters, Head Start programs and community centers. An estimated 259,000 Long Islanders—including 93,000 children—turn to these places for a meal.
Among those East End farms making donations this year were Wells Farm, Wells Homestead Acres, Ed Zilnicki Farms, Satur Farms, Wickhams Farm, Garden of Eve, Schmitt Farm, Anderson Farm, Cornell Research Lab in Riverhead, Bayview Farms, East Bay Farm, Harbes Family Farm, Lewin Farm, Chalif Orchard, EECO Farm, Catapano Dairy Farm, Denise’s East End Bloomers, and Milk Pail. Island Harvest also depends on donations for Christmas and the rest of the year. Cash or food donations can be made through its Web site, islandharvest.org.