The Food Bank of the Southern Tier
Located in Elmira, New York, The Food Bank of the Southern Tier distributes food and other grocery items to more than 165 partner agencies in Broome, Chemung, Schuyler, Steuben, Tioga and Tompkins counties. In 2012, the Food Bank distributed nearly 8 million pounds of food to its partners, serving more than 200,000 households. Operating since 1981, the Food Bank is a member of Feeding America and a regional agency of Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Rochester. The Food Bank’s mission is “Working together to build and sustain hunger-free communities throughout the Southern Tier.” Fighting hunger is not an easy task anywhere, but in the southern New York counties that border northern Pennsylvania, the combination of rural geography and the decline of manufacturing over the years have made access to food difficult for many people. The Food Bank has had to find creative solutions to the growing hunger problem.
Like other food banks, the Food Bank of the Southern Tier salvages and distributes edible but unsaleable food to its partner food pantries, soup kitchens and homeless shelters, reducing waste while feeding the hungry at the same time. It also has two mobile pantries to deliver food directly to individuals and families in need who live in food deserts. These 35-foot beverage trucks can each carry up to 15,000 pounds of food. Other programs include a volunteer-run garden that provides fresh produce for its agencies during the summer, and a children’s backpack program, which supplies needy children with f food for the weekend. In addition, the Summer Food Service Program provides free meals to low-income children who rely on free lunch during the school year.
Despite the impressive inroads the Food Bank has made in the fight against hunger, Food Bank President, Natasha Thompson, says that the Food Bank’s mission is not only about providing the food , but also about providing the nurturing connections and a sense of community “Food is a catalyst for building community,” she said, “If the Food Bank can help create that reality, then we will truly have an impact beyond the thousands of pounds of food we distribute each year.”
Mother Theresa’s Food Cupboard
“The food pantry used to be a supplement. Now it can’t be a supplement anymore,” says Mother Theresa’s Food Cupboard Coordinator Mary Roma, of her clients’ economic situations. At its start in 2005, the Endicott, New York pantry served about 300 clients per month. Now, the numbers have jumped to 1,500 per month.
“I feel better knowing they can leave here with a smile,” explains Ms. Roma optimistically. Along with food, the pantry also offers free, clean clothing, rent assistance, SNAP outreach, hygiene products and addiction help. She says she is thankful that the ShopRite Partners In Caring (SRPIC) grant enables them to provide these additional services. “Whether in [donated] food, or in a check, it all goes back to the community in which we live…does ShopRite make a difference? How could it not?” said Roma.