Food Bank of CNY working hard to meeting growing demand, looking back on the past year

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SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — Many families don’t have the fortune of always knowing where their next meal is coming from. Through the pandemic, that need has only grown.

“It’s a lot of families that have never had to reach out to the emergency food network before for help,” Karen Belcher, executive director at the Food Bank of CNY, says. “It’s disheartening and it’s hard sometimes to go to those distributions and see the individuals and to see the panic in their eyes sometimes. But yet, it’s so heartening to know we’re there. We’re helping them.”

The Food Bank of CNY says the need has grown fast. During a normal year, Belcher says the food bank distributes around 15.4 million pounds of food. The numbers this year are much different.

“Our 19-20 fiscal year, we did over 20.4 million pounds of food. We just finished the 2020 calendar year and we’re looking at 24 million pounds of food into the community, so that’s 20 million meals. We’ve never seen that in the history of the food bank,” Belcher says.

Belcher says it’s been difficult to keep a few items stocked, like canned fruits and vegetables as well as spaghetti sauce. The food bank also says it has been challenging to make sure their staff and volunteers are safe. However, Belcher says they wouldn’t have been able to make it without the support from all of their community partners, volunteers, and programs, like the Nourish New York program.

“I think adaptability has been a keyword and collaboration this year for us because from staff to volunteers to those programs in the community, they’ve adapted and they’ve adapted amazingly to how and what was needed at the time and continue to do that as well,” Belcher says.

The collaboration and support are what the food bank says they’ll take with them into the new year, knowing that “normal” isn’t likely to come anytime soon.

“That’s what we walk away with every day, knowing that we’re making a difference,” Belcher says. “We’re giving hope to families and individuals and seniors right now and we’re going to continue to. It’s just, whatever we need to do, we’re going to do it.”

The Food Bank of CNY is always in need of volunteers and donations, whether that be monetary or non-perishable food items. To find out how you can help, visit their website here.

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