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Food Bank of CNY is seeing pandemic level need amid growing rise in food insecurity

Sunday, December 10, 2023

Millions of Americans are experiencing food insecurity by facing limited or uncertain access to sufficient food.

It's a growing issue even here in Central New York.

As mentioned on the Food Bank of Central New York’s website, the face of hunger in our community has shifted from the idea that only the unhoused are out at soup kitchens and food pantries looking for a meal, to now working families and individuals who are just struggling to make ends meet.

For Mike Naselli, it’s no surprise to him that the Food Bank of CNY is feeding thousands more people than this time last year. He said he sees the need firsthand every weekend.

“There's a church, a great church that gives to people but there’s a huge line,” said Naselli. “You should see the line. I load up my trunk at this church and it’s usually on next Saturday, I’m going to go to it.”

As pandemic-era funding for social programs like SNAP came to an end, many people are getting fewer benefits as grocery prices continue to rise.

Officials with the Food Bank of CNY say they anticipated an increase in those in need of their services.

“Food Bank of Central New York and so many other organizations here are experiencing pandemic level need,” said Lynn Hy, the chief development officer. “In our first five months of our fiscal year, we’ve distributed more than 9 million pounds of food. That represents more than 18% increase over the same time period in 2022.”

In October of 2023, the food bank distributed 2.1 million pounds of food. The last time that much food was distributed was in October 2020. Although the count for distributions this past November has not yet been finalized, Hy said it is certainly more than 1.9 million pounds.

Of the 11 Central New York counties the Food Bank serves, 1 in 10 people face hunger, and 1 in 8 children face hunger.

Seniors are also a group struggling to have enough food.

“I used to be able to get food stamps but I work so much that I can't get food stamps,” said Naselli. “I get bologna, cheese, inexpensive stuff. Bananas, anything that’s inexpensive. That’s what I got to do, that’s my plan.”

With so many other factors impacting families, like high costs of food, cost of child care, and housing costs, Hy says the food bank sees this high demand for food continuing for several more years.

“If we continue to get the level of support that we’ve seen from the community and from our food donors, we will be able to continue to meet the demand but it’s dependent on getting that level of support and people continuing to believe in the work that we’re doing and wanting to help their neighbors," Hy said.

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