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 A Perfect Storm is Brewing for a Food Insecurity Crisis 

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“Food resources are a critical need for our county’s low-income families”

       By Mary Gardner-Ruch

On Wednesday, January 11th, Belinda Knight, a director at ACCORD presented to the Allegany County Legislature their plight as food becomes more scarce to help low-income and disadvantaged families.  They provide programs that include Head Start, housing and homeless prevention, childcare services, domestic violence, and supportive services including the food pantry.  They also facilitate the Allegany Food Coalition.  She was there to speak to the food insecurity crisis in Allegany County and ask the Legislators to join in developing solutions.

Belinda shared, “Food resources are a critical need for our county’s low-income families.  Some are working three jobs and are not making enough to make ends meet.”   She was informed by a coworker who helps individuals apply for SNAP benefits, that many clients report making too much money for this assistance. It is nearly impossible for a working family earning minimum wage to maintain everything they need for housing, utilities, food, children’s expenses, and any other unexpected costs that arise.  You add in needing a car to get to work and consider a car payment and the cost of gas, and there are not enough holes left in the belt to tighten their budget any further.  

Inflation has had an effect on most of us. Many of us know how to stretch meals by using leftovers to make soup, or know how to stretch a dollar by buying in bulk.  Not everyone has that skill or can afford to purchase the large bag of rice, even though in the long run it saves them money. 

  Food Pantries are run by piecing together funding and donations, food drives, and grants, to meet the demand.  ACCORD relies on funding from Foodlink, the Allegany County United Way, funding from the Department of State Community Block Grant, and community donations to support ACCORD’s pantry operations.  Prior to 2020, this was adequate funding to provide healthy food to approximately 3,000 adults, children, and the elderly, with about 1,200 food boxes per year.  Food pantries purchase products for much less by buying through Foodlink. Post-pandemic, food banks have not been receiving the donations they have in the past. 

With food banks receiving fewer mass produce and perishable food donations, the primary source for mobile food distributions, which Foodlink calls Pop Up Panties, is also limited. ACCORD serves 300 families twice a month on the first and third Wednesdays of the month throughout the county in different locations.  Families call a pre-registration line to confirm their appointment time. Since the end of 2022, the appointments are filled within the first 15 to 30 minutes of opening for pre-registration. They are turning away 100s of requests. 

Belinda told the Legislators that the Unified Services Committee which consists of Social Service Agencies, School Representatives, and others will continue to meet to work on solutions. They came together during the Pandemic and with the recent crisis have started meeting again. They are joined by the efforts of the Allegany County Food Coalition. She asked the Legislators to inform their constituents, volunteer for any food pantry in Allegany County, help glean and distribute food, host a food drive, or help them in securing additional grants.  They were asked to support the Souper Bowl on February 4th.  Some of the Legislators reached into their own wallets and handed donations to ACCORD.

According to Lesley Gooch-Christman, Executive Director at ACCORD, there is a perfect storm brewing: the Federal Government has discontinued funding that provided families with extra money for food during Covid; inflation has increased the cost of food; there are more first-time users coming for food donations, and many are the working poor; and it is more difficult for them to get the food that they need from Foodlink.  Food Panties are running out of food and turning people away. Children are going home hungry as many schools have lost funding for free breakfast and lunch programs and did not budget for this extra needed expense. 

We are called to do what we can through compassion and action. ACCORD can purchase food more reasonably by going through Foodlink. They can use monetary donations to do this. If you want to drop off food at your local food pantry, you can contact them directly. A list can be found at accordcorp.org. Click services and then Food Pantry. Put in your zip code and you will find the food pantry in your area. Checks can be mailed or dropped off at 84 Schuyler Street Belmont, NY 14804. 

Cuba Cultural Center, Inc. has also seen a huge increase in need and is feeling the storm brewing. For more information about how you can help them with food insecurity, call 585-209-0052, email [email protected], or stop by 38 East Main Street Cuba, NY 14727.

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