Bellport, NY: February 7, 2013 — Lighthouse Mission, Long Island’s first and largest mobile food pantry, documented this month that despite lack of funding it is now feeding 10% of Suffolk County’s population*—up to 3,200 people a week.
While the funding cut will hurt providers that donate food to Lighthouse, the 20-year-old nonprofit says it will not affect their daily operations. Every week the Mission’s mobile team gives out food to people in need in these Suffolk locations: Bellport, Central Islip, Coram, Shirley, Patchogue, Port Jefferson Station, Lake Ronkonkoma and Riverhead. The outreaches take place outside in all kinds of weather where people wait on line to receive a bag of food.
“Some news reports say the economy is recovering, but that’s not what we see. Every day of the week the numbers of people we serve at our outreaches are growing,” said Ryan. “People are sometimes standing in a foot of snow or in 20-degree temps for an hour just to get a bag of food from our truck.”
The Mission, which does not get the federal anti-poverty funding, receives all its food by donation. “We rely on God to provide the food day by day,” said Ryan, adding that the Mission is feeding more than 151,000 people a year in Suffolk. “Our nonprofit operates independently, so we’re not a tax burden to Suffolk residents, and yet we are feeding 10% of the people who live here—roughly equal to last year’s unemployment rate in Suffolk,” Ryan said.
Many of the unemployed adults coming to the food outreaches are single parents who can barely afford to feed their children. So on Saturdays the Mission’s outreach is a free Kids’ Club where close to 100 children eat a free hot lunch donated by area businesses. “For some kids, this is the only square meal they’ll get all weekend,” Ryan said.
Most of the children come from the Bellport homeless shelter HELP Suffolk. “Local police, fire department and other community groups volunteer in the program to help us teach the kids about safety, healthy choices and character-building skills. The most important thing is we want them to learn that God loves them and has good plans for them that poverty doesn’t have to be a way of life.”
Lighthouse Mission, a nonprofit 501 (c) 3 organization, has been feeding the hungry and sharing the love of God with people in need on the streets of Long Island since 1992. The Mission is funded by compassionate people, businesses, churches and community groups who donate both food and money.
*Population number based on U.S. Census 2011 of 1,498,816 - 10.09%