By Erin Kelly, Contributing Writer
OSWEGO, NY – In 2010, The Food Bank of CNY reported it provided more than 7.8 million meals to local residents residing in 11 counties in Central and Northern New York.
Its goal is to eliminate hunger through food distribution, education and advocacy with the help of members from the community.
The recent hard economic times have made that mission more difficult.
Making sure food pantries, soup kitchens and emergency shelters are all supplied with food is becoming harder to do, officials said.
Ania Stilwell, public relations manager for The Food Bank of CNY, said “No one in need of food has ever been turned away and the job of The Food Bank is to supply food to the pantries. The pantries then distribute the food to people in need.”
She also explained there has been a decrease in the numbers for emergency food assistance since 2008.
“But, the need is still there,” she added.
Allison Schlicke, director of emergency and practical assistance services who runs the Salvation Army of the Syracuse area’s Food Pantry, said, “Our numbers have increased 54% over the first three months of the year compared to the same three months last year.”
This statistic also correlates with the employment rates with Oswego, which, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics unemployment rates in Oswego were at 12%. That is the highest it’s been since 1992, which means more families must be in need of assistance more than they have been.
Verma Sachok, a volunteer at the food pantry in Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Liverpool, said she too has seen more families use the food pantry more than before.
She explained 150 to 170 families a month use the food pantry which also means an increase in the amount of food needed to provide for them.
Families are provided with basic necessity foods, usually can goods and box food such as pasta and rice, bagged up or boxed, and are tailor-made specifically for individual needs as well (specific nutritional diet, medical conditions such as diabetes, etc).
She mentioned bread and meat are provided if there is a need for them.
However, it is not in the pantry but does get delivered to individuals who ask for it.
Sachok explained the step-by-step process of what one can expect when using a food pantry.
First, there is a form that must be signed before any food can be given away. This form ask the names and date of birth of the adults and the children if there are any, mailing address, phone number, any federal help, income level and finally a signature at the end with a tally of total individuals who will be receiving help.
This form is necessary for the pantry to have in order for the pantry to keep getting grants.
Afterwards, the food gets bagged up by the volunteers if it isn’t already prepared and is taken away by the individual or families that need it.
“Anyone in the community who needs help is always welcomed,” Sachok said.
Anyone who wants to help can volunteer their time to local pantries.
However, it seems food, money and clothes are what pantries need right now.
Local food pantries in Oswego County include the Salvation Army, Parish Ecumenical Food Pantry, and Oswego County Opportunities – SAF.
To find more information on local food banks in the surrounding areas, visit http://www.hungeractionnys.org
Also, to donate or to learn about volunteering opportunities in Central and Northern New York, visit www.foodbankcny.org