'Fill-the-Bag' effort in RVC feeds families


Hundreds of vehicles lined up on Lakeview Avenue and around the block onto Langdon Street to pick up food donations at the annual Fill-the-Bag event in Rockville Centre from Monday, Nov. 19 to Wednesday, Nov. 21.

The steady stream of cars lining the road led to local auto body shop Mid Island Collision. Each year, the company’s owner, Robert Jesberger, spearheads the Fill-the-Bag effort, which he said is the largest volunteer food-distribution event of its kind in country.

“People think Long Island is a wealthier area, but we have the worst problems with undernourishment,” Jesberger said. “It’s a major problem. The one percent, like me, we don’t have these problems, so we have an obligation to give back. It’s biblical.”

Mid Island Collision has hosted Fill-the-Bag for 25 years and turned it into a national brand six years ago. Jesberger has spent millions of dollars on this effort to date. This year, he spent roughly $250,000 on food and materials like bags and containers. Once everything is purchased, “the big thing is getting the word out to people who need the food,” he said.

Hundreds of organizations picked up the food donations, which was enough to feed close to 200,000 people on Long Island and the tri-state area, Jesberger said.

Members of the Molloy College women’s lacrosse team donated their time to fill and load bags for donation. Molly VanDusen, of Seaford, volunteered with some of her teammates the day before Thanksgiving. “It’s a great thing to do right around the holidays and it’s great seeing the food being delivered all across Long Island,” she said.

One of the most recent national studies on food insecurity on Long Island — called Hunger in America 2010 — found that about 283,700 people on Long Island receive emergency food each year. More information can be found at licares.org.

Jesberger said he hopes to bring ‘Fill-the-Bag” nationwide by next year and challenge large corporations to undertake similar efforts. “I do and I don’t do enough,” Jesberger said. “I challenge myself to do more every year.”