Albany banks on Island Harvest consolidation, growth

Eat up: A $1 million New York State grant will help the Island Harvest Food Bank centralize and expand its operations.

A hefty New York State grant will help a Long Island food-insecurity charity secure a permanent warehouse and expand its operations.

Island Harvest Food Bank, a leading regional hunger-relief organization, has secured a $1 million award from Albany’s State and Municipal Facilities Program, earmarked for the food bank’s ongoing capital campaign.

Specifically, the grant will be used to purchase a permanent building to consolidate Island Harvest operations. The organization currently leases its Center for Collection and Distribution on Marcus Boulevard in Hauppauge – which includes office space for staff, confidential client intake areas and training facilities – and maintains donated warehouse space in Uniondale and Calverton, as well as a leased office facility in Bethpage.

A consolidated operation would improve distribution efficiencies and expand the organization’s programs, which already assist 316,000-plus food-insecure Long Islanders.

Island Harvest President and CEO Randi Shubin Dresner credited the grant to Long Island’s State Senate delegation – Majority Leader John Flanagan (R-Smithtown) and Senators Kemp Hannon (R-Garden City), Carl Marcellino (R-Oyster Bay), Elaine Phillips (R-Mineola), Kenneth LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) and Phil Boyle (R-Bay Shore) were “instrumental in securing the funds,” according to Island Harvest – and trumpeted the big score as unique for an organization more accustomed to piecing together its budget and its operations.

Randi Shubin Dresner: Expanded menu.

“The growth that Island Harvest Food Bank has experienced since its inception in 1992 has been supported mostly through a piece-by-piece approach regarding our distribution and warehouse functions,” Shubin Dresner said. “It’s time to consolidate operations that support more efficient collection and distribution of product used to support the people we serve throughout Long Island in a more resourceful and cost-effective manner.”

A larger, permanent space will “help close the existing meal gap” on Long Island, she added.

“Our Long Island state senators have been strong advocates on behalf of Island Harvest Food Bank and the people we serve,” Shubin Dresner noted. “We are deeply appreciative of their efforts and genuine concern.”

The plan is to consolidate the back-office operations while securing more food-storage space, including greater stores of fresh produce, meat and dairy products. Island Harvest hopes to also add extra space for its Emergency Resource Center.

The charity also has plans for a “working kitchen” that could be used to demonstrate proper nutrition and food preparation to tight-budgeted clients.

That full slate of expanded operations makes the grant a no-brainer, according to Flanagan, who called the work of Shubin Dresner and her Island Harvest team “essential.”

“It is crucial that we continually work together to find ways to help Island Harvest fulfill its very important mission of helping those who are in need,” the senate majority leader said in a statement. “I thank my colleagues in the Senate Majority Conference for joining with me to secure this funding.

“We are happy to play a small part in [Island Harvest’s] ongoing effort,” Flanagan added.

In 2017, Island Harvest Food Bank collected and distributed the equivalent of roughly 7.5 million meals among 450 community-based food-supplement organizations, including food pantries and soup kitchens. Island Harvest also maintains a stockpile of bottled water, meals-ready-to-eat and other emergency supplies as part of its mission as a lead regional disaster-relief agency.