Seven North Shore LIJ hospitals are hosting a new program aimed at collecting healthier food for Long Island’s pantries, Suffolk County Legislator William Spencer announced Tuesday at Huntington Hospital.
“In a world of fast food, constant temptation and delicious meals heavy on calories, carbs, sodium and fat, it can be hard to stay on the dietary straight-and-narrow,” said Spencer, who is also a medical doctor. “Buying and preparing healthy food requires money and time that some people just do not have.”
The program is a food drive for diabetes-friendly items. Donation bins are placed at the seven participating hospitals now through July 31.
Glen Cove, Huntington, Plainview, Franklin, Southside, Syosset and Forest Hills Hospitals are partners in the drive. The food is being collected by the Island Harvest food bank.
Spencer cited alarming increases in diabetes diagnoses across the country and on Long Island. A handout provided by his office reported that there are 250,000 Long Islanders living with diabetes, with a third of the region’s residents who are now under the age of 20 expected to be diagnosed in their lifetime.
“Many of these conditions are acquired through poor choices,” Spencer said. He noted that the disease is reversible through proper nutrition and lifestyle choices.
Island Harvest’s vice president of programs and agency relations, Nicole Christensen, said in a statement, “No one should be denied access to nutritionally balanced food because of unfortunate economic or other circumstances. Island Harvest is committed to promoting healthy eating habits and supplying good, healthy food to those we serve.”
Terence Smith, administrator for the Dolan Family Health Center at Huntington Hospital, said he was “ecstatic” over the program’s focus.
“I’ve always heard that we as a society don’t educate our physicians-in-training enough about nutrition,” he said, adding that many of the most common diseases plaguing Americans can be mitigated with proper choices about what foods people put in their bodies.
The food drive is the first phase of Spencer’s Healthy Communities Initiative, which his office said will include a series of programs in partnership with the Suffolk County Department of Health, offering free workshops, screenings and information to the public.
The drive comes one month after the hospital system held its cooking contest, where chefs representing each of the 11 hospitals competed to create gourmet dishes that adhered to strict nutritional guidelines.