About 600 people attended the 26th Annual Taste of the Harvest at the Crest Hollow Country Club in Woodbury on October 15. The event raises funds for Island Harvest Food Bank's many programs. The hunger-relief organization serves the more than 300,000 Long Islanders living in food insecurity—a state in which people do not get enough food consistently to live active and healthy lives.
Opening speakers at the popular event included Island Harvest president and CEO Randi Shubin Dresner, NBC 4 New York's Pei-Sze Cheng and—Friends Academy's Shivani Patel! The 11th-grade student received an award or her work with the organization over the past year and was designated as the Island Harvest 2019 Student Ambassador.
"I learned so much about hunger on Long Island," Shivani shared in her award acceptance speech, "including that one of 10 Long Islanders seeks emergency food assistance and each night there are tens of thousands of children going to bed hungry on Long Island."
Upon learning about Island Harvest, Shivani said she knew immediately that she wanted to dedicate much of her time to working with the organization. The organization targets its programs to meet the needs of the many people on Long Island who are hungry, from children and parents to veterans and senior citizens. Island Harvest reports that about 70,000 people in Nassau and Suffolk counties are fed through their soup kitchens, food pantries and other programs each week.
Shivani took part in the annual Island Harvest Stamp Out Hunger food drive, the Senior Mobile Pantry, Healthy Harvest Farms and the Summer Food Service Program, where she handed out lunches to kids at their day camp.
"The smiles on all the kids' faces when they received their food is unforgettable," Shivani shared. "It reminded me not to take what I have for granted." Through her work with older people, she learned that "so many seniors have to choose between getting their daily medicine and food. That's heartbreaking to me because no person should have to do that at any age."
Shivani also raised $50,000 for Island Harvest, asking "literally everyone [she] could think of" to donate.
Shivani's parents run a nonprofit that provides access to healthcare to remote villages in India and volunteering for it from such a young age helped instill in her a passion for community service and helping people across the globe. She has been involved in several service-oriented activities at FA including the YSOP trip to New York City, which allows students to work with various soup kitchens and We Are the Community Helpers, which provides activities such as sandwich making, sports and music events with disabled adults, food drives and tutoring/homework help at the nearby Boys & Girls Club.
This year Shivani started a club at school called Choose Your Charity. "Our goal is to diversify how and where we give back," Shivani explained. "We want to help in different ways because I believe we can do more than just donate money." Having been an FA student since fifth grade has greatly helped shape Shivani's views.
"My years at Friends Academy have [highlighted] the importance of service, one of the Quaker values," Shivani said.
"Along with my parents, I believe FA has had a large impact on me by developing my love and passion to give back."
Shivani hopes to one day be a successful business woman who uses her influence to create a foundation that helps people.
"I think it's extremely critical for people of all ages to be involved with community service," Shivani said. "It's so important for people to learn at an early age to help the world."