As we move deeper into winter, many of our neighbors need help. The Long Island Council of Churches urges you to check your own kitchen and donate any unopened food containers that you are not likely to consume. They will even take fruitcake.
“Some of us actually like fruitcake and look forward to receiving it in December,” said Rev. Tom Goodhue, executive director of the Long Island Council of Churches, “even if others would rather use these gifts as doorstops or hockey pucks. If you belong to the latter group, why not give them to your local food pantry?”Do you have fruitcake in your cupboard that were received in recent weeks or placed there by the Ghost of Christmas Past? There is actually considerable nutrition in these desserts, and food donations are slow after the holidays, leaving community pantries scrambling to feed the hungry in each winter.
Do you have anything else that needs to be cleaned out of your cupboard? Fancy jellies and jams you received as gifts but probably will eat? Flavored coffee that is not your cup of tea? “Most of us have food in our homes we will never eat–food that our neighbors need,” Goodhue adds. “This is a great time to go through your canned goods and give away anything that you are not going to use that is not dented, rusted, or otherwise inedible.”
Do you have any of these that you are not going to use? Donations of baby food, infant formula. toiletries, personal care items, and shopping bags also are welcome. Or did you receive a gift of clothing that does not suit you? The LICC and many other charities welcome donations of hats, scarves, gloves, mittens, and winter coats. And they will gladly take shopping bags to be reused by the guests to their pantries.
“We’ll even take fruitcake and excess Valentine’s Day candy,” Goodhue adds. “And while you are pulling these from your kitchen, you might see what else you could donate.”
Can you donate food that has passed its use-by date? “We will take nearly anything, with this exception: please do not donate rusted cans, cans dented along the seams, or baby food or infant formula that has passed the date stamped on the can or jar.”
Baby food and formula, he explains, cannot be given to parents after they reach the expiration date, which is fairly easy to read on their labels. So please encourage parents to donate the baby food or formula that their children no longer need immediately, so that someone in need can use it. If you have expired formula, many animal shelters are glad to take this to supplement pet food.
On other nonperishable items, it is difficult to decode the labels and what appears to be a do-not-use date may simply be a “pull-date” for warehouses or grocery store deliveries: the item may still be safe to use. The state issues the LICC a food salvaging license, and their pantry staff are trained regularly by Island Harvest and Long Island Cares in “food rescue” training to learn the intricacies of distinguishing pull-dates, best-if-used-by-dates, and when-to-chuck-it dates. They can easily determine if it safe to distribute any donations you make.
The Rev. Dwight Wolter, pastor of Patchogue Congregational Church, has one more suggestion: donate the stuff at the back of your shelf, which you probably aren’t using, before it is too ancient to help someone who needs it.
Donations for the LICC’s pantries may be dropped off in Hempstead at Christ’s 1st Presbyterian Church, 1644 Denton Green (opposite the Hempstead library), Monday through Friday, 9 to 4:30 (516-565-0290) , our Freeport pantry (450 N. Main Street, 516-868-4989) Monday-Friday 10 to 4, our Riverhead office (407 Osborne Avenue at Lincoln, 631-727-2210) Monday-Friday 9:00 to 4:30 ,or at any LICC meeting or event.