Asked what makes Island Harvest so successful, its president and CEO, Randi Shubin Dresner, answered with a single word: “Passion.”
Just days after Hurricane Sandy struck Long Island, volunteers for Island Harvest, Long Island’s largest hunger relief organization, were aiding first responders in Point Lookout, Long Beach, Island Park and other hard-hit locations.
“The passion is not just from me,” said Shubin Dresner, who lives in East Meadow. “It’s something that is felt throughout the whole organization.”
Established in 1992, Island Harvest serves as a bridge between those who have surplus food and those who need it. The Mineola-based nonprofit collects food from restaurants, caterers, farms and other food-oriented businesses and delivers it to a network of more than 570 Long Island-based food pantries, soup kitchens and other nonprofit organizations that help feed those in need.
Shubin Dresner, 52, took over as president and CEO in 2001. Since then, the volume of food collected and delivered has tripled — from 2.5 million to 8 million pounds a year.
So when Sandy came ashore, leaving thousands of Long Islanders without, among other necessities, food, Island Harvest was ready. “I think the reason that we were prepared to respond was a direct result of the work we’ve been doing for 20 years,” said Shubin Dresner. “It positioned us in such a way that we were strong enough to know what assets we had, what assets we could offer, and at what intensity.”
“Teach a man to fish…”
“We tend to get involved at the highest level,” she said. “We don’t typically respond at 100 percent, we respond at 150 percent. It’s just the personality of most of the staff here.”
Each day, a fleet of Island Harvest trucks are on the road delivering food. But Shubin Dresner said the key is not necessarily feeding people, but educating people. She used the adage “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime” to sum up the organization’s philosophy. As an example, she said, Island Harvest teaches people with limited budgets to make cost-effective food purchases.