Southampton resident Dan Sullivan always knew there were children who were battling hunger all over the world, but he was surprised to learn that there is a hunger problem in the Hamptons.
That is why this summer he launched a new campaign, Operation End Hunger, to end childhood hunger both here and across New York. To start, Mr. Sullivan, 44, teamed up with Southampton Youth Services, the Future Stars sports camps, and Move for Hunger—a New Jersey-based moving truck company that collects leftover food from summer rentals to give to food banks—to collect as much food as possible for the cause.
In total, the campaign raised more than 2,000 pounds of food, the equivalent of 1,500 meals, that was donated to food pantries. And it’s just getting started.
“For me, and I think a lot of people out here, I couldn’t believe that out here we were having such an issue with hunger,” he said. “The biggest problem out here is that this is the Hamptons and most people don’t realize it is going on. I had no clue.”
The hunger movement started for Mr. Sullivan six months ago, when his wife, Michelle, a lunch attendant at the Southampton School District, told him about a lunch box program through the district that gives eligible students free lunches. Mr. Sullivan said he was shocked to hear that 1 in 5 district kids participate in the program, having thought that there was not such a large hunger problem on the East End. The discovery, he said, sparked some research, and he quickly realized that he wanted to help.
Over the next few months, Mr. Sullivan spoke with Scott Johnson at Southampton Youth Services and Charlie VanDercook, a co-owner of Future Stars, and organized a month-long food drive among the five Future Stars sport camps and the Youth Services participants. For the month of July, students at the Future Star camps—in Purchase, Southampton, Farmingdale, Old Westbury and Armonk, New York—collected canned goods and food and learned about hunger.
“We had kids competing to see who could bring in the most food,” Mr. Johnson said this week. “They got an understanding of why they were bringing in the food as opposed to just bringing the food. They got to learn why they were doing it,and how meaningful it would be for a family to have food on the table that night.”
As part of the movement, Mr. Sullivan has coined the phrase “Alert, Educate, Activate,” to make people aware of what is happening, educate them about the issue, and become an active part of the solution. In the end, 2,000 pounds of food were collected, and each camp brought the donations to a local food pantry in their area. Both the Southampton Youth Services Group and the Future Stars clubs plan to participate again next year.
“I think it was a good thing and it goes well with the theme at our sports camps of not only sportsmanship, but friendship, confidence and benevolence,” Mr. VanDercook said this week. “It was a perfect partnership in my mind because it gave us a way to educate the kids in a small but subtle way about giving. The results were very positive.”
A week later, Mr. Sullivan helped raise another 160 cans of food, this time chili, with the Reverend Marvin Dozier of the Southampton Youth Association.
With two successful food campaigns this summer, Mr. Sullivan said he is looking to expand the program through the winter and next summer. Mr. Sullivan said this week he plans to focus first on battling hunger on the East End, and then spread the cause to the rest of Long Island, and New York and beyond.
The next phase, he said, is to get local businesses and realtors involved in the project. In New Jersey, Move for Hunger is a truck company that collects leftover food when a family moves or vacates a rental home and donates the food to a local shelter. Mr. Sullivan hopes to do something similar here. He has partnered with Move for Hunger and has started meeting with local real estate agencies to get them to participate in the program.
“We want to raise as much food as possible and educate them at the same time,” Mr. Sullivan said. “Kids are our most important resource, and if they can’t concentrate because they are hungry, it will affect their education. This is a fixable problem.”