by Robert Kimmel
Indulging heartily in food during the festive holiday period from Thanksgiving through Christmas is a practice followed by many of us; however, that is not the case for the tens of thousands of Westchester residents who don’t have the means to obtain a proper meal.
Long a resource to help people in need, The Food Bank for Westchester has a special initiative in place this month to help the hungry. It has launched a “Feed a Family Campaign” aimed at raising funds to provide at least 1,000 holiday meals for needy families. The campaign began just before Thanksgiving and lasts through December 31.
“The holidays are an especially difficult time for families and individuals in need of food assistance,” explained Ellen Lynch, President and CEO of the non-profit Food Bank. Lynch announced the campaign month at the Salvation Army headquarters in Tarrytown. “The “Feed a Family’ campaign creates an impactful way for us to come together and help end hunger,” she said.
Among the officials who joined Lynch at the announcement were County Executive Robert Astorino, State Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins, and Village of Tarrytown Board Trustees Karen Brown and Becky McGovern. Close to 100 people who lined up at the Salvation Army during the event received turkeys and other food.
“For many, this is a wonderful time of year,” Astorino said, “But it’s easy to forget that it’s also a troubling time, a depressing time, for people as well in our county. So many people associate Westchester with wealth and, yes, there’s plenty of that, but there’s also plenty of need as you can see by this line — and it’s not just here in Tarrytown.”
The campaign is aimed at encouraging the Westchester community to take part in helping those in need. A $25 donation will buy a holiday meal for a family of four, according to the Food Bank. Lynch urged local residents, business leaders, and organizations to come together to donate, “whether it’s $25 to feed one family or $500 to feed 20 families.”
Pledges and donations to “Feed a Family” can be made online at FB4W.org/feedafamily, or donations can be made by mailing a check, payable to Food Bank for Westchester, at 200 Clearbrook Road, Elmsford, NY 10801.
The Food Bank for Westchester states that it “…supplies 95% of all food distributed annually across the region’s food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters, and daycare residential programs – delivering more than 7.5 million meals to people in need just last year. For every $1 we receive, we provide $4 worth of food to our hungry neighbors.”
Among the approximately 300 locations it services in Westchester are the Salvation Army in Tarrytown, the Community Food Pantry of Sleepy Hollow/Tarrytown and the Community Opportunity Center, also in Tarrytown. These three organizations secure food supplies from the Food Bank at a small portion of the retail cost. Businesses and individuals and religious groups also contribute directly to them.
Captain Giovanny Guerrero at the Salvation Army said the organization has food and nutrition programs for the needy, and its Food Pantry at its location at 115 Wildey Street is open the last Friday of each month from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. to distribute food supplies to those in need. In emergency situations, it will provide food at any time, and it also has a mobile pantry which delivers food to those who cannot leave their homes. On the 24th of this month, it will be open to hand out food supplies from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.
The Food Pantry states that it “…provides food to the hungry in Sleepy Hollow and Tarrytown proportional to family size…bags of nutritious fruits, vegetables, grains and sources of protein, so that they can make nutritious meals for their families.” It is located at the corner of Elizabeth and John Street, downstairs from the parish hall of The Christ Church, 43 S. Broadway. It distributes food on the second Thursday of the month from 9 a.m. and 10:30 a.m., and again from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. The non-denominational charity is run entirely by volunteers. The Food Pantry also has a monthly senior’s dinner.
The Tarrytown Community Opportunity Center (COC) operates a bi-weekly food pantry for local residents, with “90 to 100 households taking advantage of the programs,” it stated. Denise Edwards who heads the COC, explained that, as an example, eligible people who sign up for food supplies on Monday, December 12, will pick up their bags of food on Wednesday, December 14. Edwards also explained that there are senior dinners hosted at the COC on the third Thursday of the month.
“Emergency food,” is available Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Edwards said, and the COC will also deliver to those who are homebound.
Of Westchester’s population of nearly one million persons, just over 10.4 % are “in poverty,” according to United States Census Bureau 2014 statistics.