Feeding America, once known as America’s Second Harvest, has become the second largest charity in the United States by revenue. A nationwide network of more than 200 food banks that feed more than 46 million people through food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters, and other community-based agencies, the non-profit organization notes that it has served 1 in 7 Americans. Feeding America sets standards and acquires food donations from national companies for its network of food banks.
During the corona virus pandemic, it has responded vigorously to the challenges of feeding people in need within their communities, and has launched a special COVID-19 Response Fund. Its response has included strong support and flexibility for federal nutrition programs including the School Lunch Program by ensuring that the 22 million children who rely on school meals have access to food outside of the classroom as well as providing emergency grants to food banks to support local response efforts. It has built an inventory of emergency food boxes which are distributed to food banks across the country as the need for food assistance increases.
Feeding America notes on its website that food banks serve large areas. Nonetheless, folks should be able to find food assistance in their local community, by first searching for a local food bank by zip code or State on Feeding America’s website. For example, in my neck of the woods (the Capital Region of upstate New York), Feeding America’s website guides a user to the Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York.
This praiseworthy Regional Food Bank, headquartered in an Albany suburb, collects large donations of food from the food industry and distributes it to charitable agencies serving hungry and disadvantaged people in 23 upstate New York counties, from Plattsburgh (Clinton County) near the Canadian border to Newburgh (Orange County) in the mid Hudson Valley. Last year, this upstate New York food bank provided 41 million pounds of food to nearly 1,000 charitable organizations in the 23 counties within its bailiwick. Listings of organizations and food pantries providing food assistance in the 23 counties are shown on the Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York’s website.
Donations to the Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York can be made on-line, and its website also has information on volunteering.
In the Capital Region area of upstate New York, the non-profit organization Capital Roots remains committed to ensuring food security and access to healthy and nutritious food including fresh produce to those most in need. The most recent Well column in the New York Times (4/21/20) by Jane E. Brody, Poor Diet’s Role in Coronavirus Risk, references several successful pilot programs demonstrating the health benefits of actually providing healthy foods to people with diet related disease. Ms. Brody’s column confirms the wisdom of Capital Roots’ commitment to providing healthy and nutritious food, especially fresh fruits and vegetables.
But in addition to its providing access to healthy food, this praiseworthy organization also makes roughly 900 plots available in 55 community gardens, located throughout Albany, Rensselaer, Schenectady and southern Saratoga counties. And anyone with an interest in growing their own food and flowers, depending on current availability, can sign up for a plot in one of its community gardens.
In response to the current challenges of the pandemic, Capital Roots has established call-in ordering at its Urban Grow Center Market in Troy (Rensselaer County) for anyone in the area who needs access to fresh produce, and the Market has also extended its hours and set up low-contact food sales. New local products – including bread, eggs and cheese – are also now available. Capital Roots notes that the Market saw a 155% increase in sales in March, 2020 compared to last year and already in April it is experiencing a 500% increase from this time last year.
Capital Roots continues to operate its Mobile Markets, including The Veggie Mobile, which brings fresh food directly into neighborhoods lacking access during this challenging period of social distancing. And through its Squash Hunger Program, it also continues to collect and distribute produce to the region’s pantries and shelters.
(Frank W. Barrie, 4/22/20)