Written by Chris Boyle Saturday, 16 November 2013 00:00
Despite the United States being one of the largest and most powerful nations on the planet, there are still millions of poverty-stricken citizens who lay their heads upon their pillows each and every night with a growling in their stomachs; hunger, at times, seems like all they’ve ever known.
However, there are people out there more than willing to help to combat this epidemic. Among them is Mineola-based Island Harvest Food Bank, which works to help the hungry across Long Island, feeding essentially about 300,000 people a year; that comes to about one out of every ten Long Islanders who simply aren’t getting enough to eat, according to Randi Shubin Dresner, president and CEO of the charity.
“We’re very invested in hunger and hunger relief and all of the different programs and services that we provide for people across Long Island who are struggling to make ends meet,” she said.
As a means of helping to spread the word about their mission to put food on the tables of poor families, Island Harvest recently held a screening of the acclaimed documentary on hunger in America, A Place at the Table, at Huntington’s
Cinema Arts Center on Wednesday, Nov. 6.
“This isn’t a night about fundraising, this is a night about raising awareness, advocacy and education, getting the word out about hunger and the complications that people who are living in poverty are living with each and every day,” she said. “This is an important film because it speaks to the difficulties of so many people across the country who are struggling with hunger and poverty.”
A Place at the Table, directed by the duo of Kristi Jacobson and Lori Silverbush, highlights a number of people throughout the country who are confronted with the issue of hunger daily; this personal aspect of the film gives it a strong emotional edge, according to the film’s producer and food activist Tom Colicchio.
“The film took about three years to make, and the process of making it was pretty eye-opening...we’re the wealthiest nation in the world yet there are 50 million Americans who are what is called as food insecure,” he said.
U.S. Representative Steve Israel, a staunch supporter of Island Harvest, was a big part of making the evening’s screening of A Place at the Table come together.
“I actually met Tom Colicchio at a briefing on food insecurity and I asked him to come here this evening in light of his ongoing efforts in that area,” he said. “I asked Tom to come to my district and speak to about the issue and preview his film, and I couldn’t think of a better place to do it at than the Cinema Arts Center with Island Harvest.”
In addition to the screening, a panel discussion was also held on the content of the film that was moderated by New York State Assemblyman Charles Lavine, who had his own strong viewpoint on the issue of hunger, derived from the stories told to him by a family member when he was a youngster.
“My grandmother, who lived to the ripe old age of 106, was an interesting woman with a lot of life experiences...one of those experiences was being abandoned by her husband at the height of the Great Depression,” he said. “She was struggling to support her 9-year-old daughter, and they survived only through the kindness of a Chinese family, who gave them an attic to live in and fed them. This story shaped my life-view...that we are all neighbors and that we all have to take good care of each other,” Lavine continued.
Mike Xirinachs, Long Island Bureau Chief at WCBS Newsradio 880, was a member of the panel discussion, and relayed both his very personal take on the issue of hunger in America, in addition to delivering the message that food assistance programs work.
“I was a kid growing up in Boston; I went to school not to get an education, but for the hot lunch program,” he said. “That was the best meal I’d get all day...some days it was the only meal I’d get. My family lived in poverty into my early teens, on food assistance most of the time, and without it, I never could have gotten to where I am today.”