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Food Bank of CNY unveils massive warehouse expansion amid growing need

Friday, November 10, 2023

For the first time since the pandemic, food insecurity is spiking across Central New York. It comes as the Food Bank of CNY works to keep up with growing demand.

CNY Central recently got a sneak peek at the massive expansion underway to help meet the need. The $8.5 million warehouse expansion project will add nearly 34,000 square feet to its existing facility.

"The thought of what that impact's going to be for the community once we have the space is probably what makes it even more exciting," said Food Bank Executive Director Karen Belcher.


Construction underway at the Food Bank of Central New York. (Photo by CNY Central)

Belcher says this project has been three years in the making. It features more warehouse and office space, an additional cooler, and a brand new volunteer center along with a new section for partner sites to pick up food to deliver to those in need, "We're going to be able to increase boxes to include medically tailored, culturally appropriate, hygiene items, really the sky's the limit when we have the space to be able to do this work," Belcher said.

She and her team started envisioning this project as the pandemic hit in 2020 and the need exploded, "There wasn't enough storage. There wasn't space to do the repack. We were doing repack off-site," she said.

The numbers show the growing need, which Belcher says is now back to pre-pandemic levels. In October of 2022, the Food Bank distributed 1.68 million pounds of food. Compare that to this October at more than 2.14 million pounds, a 27 percent spike.

Volunteers sort through food donations at the Food Bank of Central New York. (Photo by CNY Central)

The Food Bank says the last time it saw this level of need was in October of 2020 at the height of the pandemic.

"As everybody thought the pandemic is over, let's take these benefits away that were given previously, we had a feeling that it was going to hit because families were still trying to get back to that normal."

Belcher says people are still under-employed, dealing with the high cost of food, housing and transportation. She says it is forcing them to make difficult decisions, choosing between child care, medicine and food. You don't know who is food insecure because that person could be sitting next to you and you just don't know it. You can't physically look at somebody and visibly see hunger.

The Food Bank hopes to open the expanded warehouse this spring. They are using state and federal dollars for the project and relying on corporate donors and individual donations. To help support the project, click here.

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