by Dorothy Conigliaro
Most residents in the river towns are fortunate enough to look forward to a Thanksgiving holiday, celebrating with friends and family at a table laden with the plentiful foods of the season. For others, even close neighbors in this area, there are no such celebrations and certainly no such bountiful tables. We think of America as the land of plenty, but for large portions of the population, food and shelter are in meager supply.
Fortunately, there are individuals and groups who are thoughtful of those less fortunate, and who arrange their lives to help them. Many such organizations include The Food Bank, which provides food and technical assistance to more than 265 qualified front-line hunger relief programs throughout Westchester.
Other direct-care service programs include food pantries, soup kitchens, low-income daycare and adult-care centers, residential shelters, and treatment facilities. The majority of these programs are in lower Westchester cities, and an additional 23 towns and villages throughout the county have at least one program that is part of the Food Bank’s network. All of its member programs must meet food-industry standards and food-safety guidelines and must provide monthly reports documenting the number of people served. Government Emergency Food Programs, such as USDA, which the Food Bank for Westchester administers, have additional criteria for participation in the Food Bank’s food distribution system.
The Food Bank’s primary functions are acquiring, warehousing and distributing food to local frontline hunger-relief programs. It has distributed 7.6 million pounds of food, providing 6.3 million meals to hungry people in Westchester County. Donations were received from the Kraft Mobile Food Pantry Distributions, the Senior Grocery Program, Neighborhood Food Express, Project Green Thumb, Retail Store Recovery Program, Back Pack Program, and Kids Café program, among others.
The SNAP Outreach, Education & Advocacy Program provides information to determine eligibility for assistance, and made 449 home visits to seniors and the homebound to process applications.
Eat Local NY has been a wonderful partner to the Community Food Pantry over the past 18 months. It arranges to have produce donated to the Pantry and also run cooking demos during its morning distribution (“Farmers Market Teams up with Eat Local NY for Westchester Hunger Prevention, The Hudson Independent, October). Sleepy Hollow Middle School collected 789 packages of food, and Kids Club, a strictly volunteer group, whose administrative costs are covered by its board members, enables 100% of every dollar donated to help the children and families they serve.
Major funding for these programs comes from The Westchester Community Foundation, Kids’ Club of Tarrytown & Sleepy Hollow, The Food Bank for Westchester’s Green Thumb Program, The Rivertown Runners, The Reformed Church of the Tarrytowns, All Saints Episcopal Church, The Church of the Magdalene and Irvington Presbyterian Church. And, of course, the programs could not exist without the generous donation of space given by Christ Episcopal Church. These foundations, organizations, and individuals have exhibited a true community effort.
Organizations and groups throughout the area provide funding, goods and services for the benefit of our neighbors in need. Volunteers are always needed. If you would like to help, any one of these organizations can be contacted for volunteer information.