On Saturday, July 8, Paule Pachter, CEO of Long Island Cares, will be honored along with artist and activist April Gornik and Minerva Perez, Executive Director of OLA of Eastern Long Island, during the inaugural Caliente – a fundraiser for Long Island Cares and OLA of Eastern Long Island. The multi-chef event, which will be held at the Bridgehampton home of Maria and Kenneth Fishel, will feature signature dishes and a full open bar, as well as exhilarating Latin rhythms of Tito Puente Jr. and his eight piece band.
We recently caught up with Pachter about Long Island Cares and the exciting Hamptons benefit.
For those unfamiliar with Long Island Cares, could you please tell me a little bit about what the organization does?
PP: Long Island Cares is actually the regional food bank. We provide emergency food, about 7 million pounds of it, every year, to a network of 580 community organizations that are members and those include the food pantries and the soup kitchens and the senior day care programs, and Head Start programs and others. We were founded in 1980 by the late Harry Chapin who lived in Huntington Bay. If you’re not familiar with Harry, he was a singer, a Grammy-award winning songwriter, and a social activist. He was passionate about the issue of hunger and ending it in his lifetime. Unfortunately his lifetime ended a year after he founded Long Island Cares.
How has the organization grown or changed over the years?
PP: Well, we’ve changed dramatically in the last nine years. We’ve increased our staff to include people that do more direct services and we focus now on the root causes of hunger and why people need food as opposed to just delivering food and just increasing the amount you give out every year. So, with that, we’ve developed a series of direct service programs, mobile outreach for the homeless, mobile outreach for veterans. We have home delivery of food for our mobile pantry, work with both the Brentwood and Wyandanch school districts, provide a mobile school pantry, we operate three community based satellite centers – these are assistance centers – one is in Freeport, the other is in Lindenhurst, and the third is in Huntington Station, where we work with high need communities. We provide job training, and placement for veterans, we provide a pet pantry where we provide pet food for families that are struggling with food insecurity, we have a very active government affairs program in terms of advocacy for good policies on the local and national levels, we have a very strong program for children, including a kids café after school program that provides meals, a weekend backpack program and our two mobile children’s food trucks. So, the organization has gone from what would be considered a traditional food bank to more of a humanitarian organization that addresses all the needs that a person could have once they realize that they are food insecure.
What Long Island Cares’ impact on the East End?
PP: I was kind of surprised exactly how extensively we are there on the East End. To us, the East End is Riverhead and East. So right now on the East End, we are supporting 25 food pantries that are located in various communities, you know Manorville, Eastport, Southampton, Springs, Montauk, so we have 25 food pantries out there. Between the 25 food pantries, we’re serving 9,200 people. So the issue with food insecurity is kind of significant on the East End, and it’s not just a seasonal issue. People would think, you know it’s not summer so we don’t have the farming staff here, we don’t have other people who are doing landscaping – so this is really a seasonal thing. No, this is year-round. Hunger doesn’t know any seasons, it’s just there. We actually have three kids café programs out there – two are in Riverhead and one is at the Shinnecock Reservation, where we’re providing after school meals for 82 children, and with the other programs, in all total it’s about 400 children. The kids that are taking part in our backpack program, that’s 186 children right now, and that’s in Southampton and Manorville. In fact, Southampton is the largest concentration for the East End in our backpack program. We serve people anywhere from Floral Park to Montauk and we certainly have a presence on the East End and I think it’s important that people know that there are families that are struggling on the East End – it’s not just the immigrant population. There are children who are food insecure and when schools are closed they need the support to continue to get by and we’re hoping through our involvement through Caliente that the people that attend the event will get to know more about Long Island Cares and the issue of food insecurity on the East End and that they will be generously supporting us.
How many people/families do you help on a yearly basis?
PP: Total, on the East End, it’s about 9,200 people. Island wide, it’s about 316,000. Approximately 11 percent of Long Island is considered food insecure.
How does education and training play a role in the fight to end hunger?
PP: What’s important to us about our education programs is our staff being able to go into the schools – whether it’s the elementary schools or high schools or even the universities – and talking about the problem of hunger as it exists on Long Island and destigmatizing the issue so that people don’t think this is just an urban or rural problem. This is a national health crisis and Long Island has dramatically changed in the last 20 years, demographically, and in 20 years from now it will be something completely different than it is today. As I mentioned to many people, especially our legislative delegation from the East End, 30 years ago people would look at Long Island and say look at how much affluence you have. Look at how many mansions there are and celebrities live there. Well, today on Long Island, we have pockets of affluence. The majority of Long Island is not affluent. The majority of people are middle to upper middle class who are finding it difficult to live here and we have a very significant increase of people who are living at or near the national poverty level. If you look at poverty on Long Island in comparison to the rest of the country, families on Long Island who are making perhaps $60,000 or $70,000 a year and have children are living poor, and that represents about 2/3 of the families that come to Long Island Cares, and their agencies.
What are some of the organization’s goals for the future?
PP: We’ve been very successful with our satellite model of opening up in communities where there is need, making food more easily accessible to people, and so we would like to be able to expand our satellites. We would very much like to explore one on the East End where there is need as well as in the extreme western part of Nassau County where there is need as well. We would like to continue to look at innovate ways to get food to children and certainly we want to be able to expand upon the amount of people who are aware of our organization and know what we do so we can collaborate even more with local agencies or local governments. And, of course, who doesn’t want to increase their donor base if they’re a non-for-profit organization. I’d be remissed if I didn’t say that was certainly one of our goals. We’d like to always be able to increase our fundraising, because frankly, all of the direct service programs we established were able to be established because of private support. They were done without government funding. They were done through private dollars. As they developed, yeah, the government has gotten involved. But, that’s very important to us, that we continue to have the private support to expand our programs.
What was your reaction when you found out you were being honored at Caliente?
PP: Well, I think my first reaction was one of embarrassment because I am the CEO of Long Island Cares, and to be honest with you, I’m honored every day that I’m able to come to work and do what I have to do. But, after I got over that, I thought how wonderful it is for our organization to be partnering with OLA because we both have a focus on the immigrant population and to improve the quality of life for them. And I thought it’s nice to be at an organization for nine years and your own board of directors wants an opportunity to honor you long before you plan to retire. So I’m pretty happy with it now.
For more information on Long Island Cares or Caliente, visit www.licares.org.