Twenty years ago last month, Hurricane Mitch hit Honduras, inspiring Aimée Holtzman of Manhasset to ship donations to survivors of the devastating storm — an initiative that led to Rock CAN Roll.
The Long Island-based nonprofit hunger relief organization encourages music fans to bring nonperishable food items to local concert venues and other events. It then donates the food to emergen- cy food pantries and food banks. But every year they see the same thing: Donations are up during the holidays and plummet come January.
“From Thanksgiving through Christmas, the world wakes up and the shelves of emergency food pantries are full,” Holtzman says. “Sadly, after the first of the year, the world goes back to sleep and food donations dwindle.”
Her group is one of many local hunger relief nonprofits that see the same annual trend. She aims to buck the norm by making food donations a routine part of the concertgoing experience.
Growing up, Holtzman loved music and attending concerts. She was also civic minded, becoming involved with several community service ventures. After becoming involved with the Island Harvest organization in the early 1990s, she realized that LI is not immune to food insecurity.
Holtzman says that Rock CAN Roll receives donations from concert goers who bring nonperishable food items and other provisions to concerts in lieu of paying for a ticket for certain performances. The donations then go straight from the concert to pantries located five to 10 miles from the venues.
Since its inception, Holtzman has implemented her donation system at hundreds of concerts at venues such as Northwell Health at Jones Beach Theater, The Paramount, and the Patchogue Theatre for the Performing Arts.
The organization also partners with local schools to teach children how to get the most value out of their money while shopping for nutritious foods. After the kids are finished shopping, they take the items they bought to local food pantries.
She says Rock CAN Roll allows people to “help out while you rock out.”