Pat-Med Community Youth Services finds new use for leftovers
Americans waste about 40 percent of their food every year, according to Move for Hunger, a nonprofit dedicated to collecting nonperishables and donating them to food banks across North America. In 2008 it estimated that about 43 billion pounds of perfectly good food were thrown out of grocery stores.
Patchogue-Medford Youth Community Services executive director Kourtney Bevis saw those numbers as a way to feed the hungry. And earlier this year, the nonprofit applied for and was awarded a New York State Department of Environmental Conservation grant to do just that: create a program to collect leftovers from local grocery stores, restaurants and community gardens, and then re-serve them to those in need.
“Grocery stores always have waste and excess,” she said, figuring why not bring it to her clients for a bigger, better variety in the food pantry. “It both reduces waste and feeds people.”
The Food Rescue Program, as she calls it, will now need local donors willing to give their leftovers to the cause. According to Bevis, volunteers will pick up and drop off whatever is donated. The hope is that such items as eggs, milk, meat, poultry, and fresh fruit and vegetables will become more available to those who normally don’t have access to them.
Though Small Cakes in Patchogue and several other local businesses donate baked goods, and organizations including Island Harvest and Long Island Cares provide fresh produce and meat, items like milk and eggs are limited.
“Milk is a hot commodity, and something we don’t get very often,” said Bevis, excited to partner with stores that might be able to provide more options for her clients. “We also don’t have the storage for it, so the faster we can turn it out to the community, the better.”
The grant, she said, will be used both for transportation costs the program will incur, and to expand the current pantry hours. Currently PMYCS serves more than 2,000 Patchogue and Medford residents who pick up pantry items weekly. Though its mission is to enhance the lives of local families, the pantry serves people of all ages, including seniors.
The pantry is currently open Monday and Thursday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. New hours will be determined based on donations, Bevis said, so that clients receive the freshest produce and meats as possible.
Thus far, Bevis has already spoken to several local grocery stores and markets that have interest in the program, including Bravo Supermarket on Ocean Avenue in Patchogue.
Ariel Bonilla, owner of Bravo, said he wants to support the community, and “with gratitude will donate their leftovers”; though he was unsure of the exact numbers of waste Bravo produces, he said that the numbers vary day to day. After more commitments are made, Bevis said, the program would launch sometime in the new year.
“Reducing waste is obviously good for the environment, but at the same time our goal is to give our clients access to healthier options,” Bevis added, stating that the pantry’s needs have been trending toward fresher food items.
The pantry is located at 390 Bay Ave. for both pickup and drop-off. Those interested in the program or in becoming a volunteer should contact Bevis at 631-758-4100. Once the program is launched, Bevis said, the pantry will need volunteers to help with deliveries.
“I really love helping people,” added Jackie Braile, a volunteer of two years and a 2015 Pat-Med High School graduate, hoping others will help as well.
Village Walk toy drive
Village Walk is hosting a Holiday Toy Drive to benefit the Patchogue-Medford Youth Community Services to make the holidays brighter for local children. Drop off an unwrapped toy, holiday wrapping paper, bows or non-perishable food item. Toy drive donations will be accepted daily from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. until Dec. 22 at 131 East Main Street in Patchogue. For more information, please call 631-953-1095. Monetary donations are also accepted; please make checks payable to Patchogue-Medford Youth Community Services.
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