The face of hunger is changing locally, according to an assessment completed by the Food Bank of Central New York. The Food Bank recently wrapped up a survey of the scope of hunger in the region, and the results supported stories they’ve heard from their emergency food program partners.
Stress says that picture is far different than four years ago, even during the worst of the recession, and the Food Bank is adjusting its programs to address the changes in its patrons.
One seasonal concern is looming on the horizon, as the spring school semester winds down:
“30% of the emergency food recipients are children under the age of 18,” Stress says. “So, we want to make sure that, as a food bank, we’re focusing on ensuring that those food resources are available, particularly during the summer, when children don’t have the availability of the school breakfast and lunch.”
The Food Bank is trying to partner with more meal sites, including area Boys and Girls Clubs, recreation centers, and parks to provide more meals for children during the summer vacation. But Stress is worried about any potential budget cuts for Women, Infant and Children (WIC) benefits, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, or the Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP).
She says the options for some families can be limited, between paying rent and utilities, purchasing medications, or buying nutritious food:
Stress says the increasing costs of utilities over a long and difficult winter, fuel costs, rising grocery bills, and health care combined with shrinking government support are causing more people to rely on emergency food pantries.
The Central New York Food Bank serves 261 emergency food assistance programs in 11 counties across the region. It distributed 13,420,441 pounds of food in 2013, and will kick off an appeal for community support at the end of April this year. For more information, visit foodbankcny.org.