Summer Need

With summer here, local food pantries are starting to see the need for more donations.

New York state food banks have requested an additional $16 million from state government to address what they say is a growing hunger problem across the state.

Requests for food have risen over the last few years, said Michael Berg, executive director of Family of Woodstock, which runs food banks in Ulster County. Even with the $34.5 million already set aside by lawmakers for state hunger prevention, food pantries and soup kitchens say it isn’t enough. With summer here, needs are going up.

Berg said more people are turning to food pantries for help as everyday expenses rise.

“I think the need for food is universal throughout New York state,” he said.

Food pantries in the Albany area provided 2.6 million meals in 2014 – the highest demand in 36 years of record keeping, according to food bank advocates.

Reports from local food pantries show food donations are slowing. Because of school breaks and holidays, fewer people are donating to food pantries, the pantries say.

“We tend to see that we don’t get the support during the summer holidays, we tend to get support in the winter holidays,” said Lt. Javon Anderson of the Salvation Army in Gloversville. The local branch provides services for more than 300 local families every month.

Anderson said people more often donate in winter when the message to give is the clearest, but the need for food continues in summer.

“The summer holidays [are] when we need the most support,” he said.

At the moment, local food supplies are adequate thanks to local food drives.

There is usually an average need for food in the beginning of every month, but the need increases toward the end of the month, pantries say.

“Those last two weeks are when the need is greatest,” Anderson said.

Other food pantries also note the increasing need for food in summer.

Cindy VanAllen, CEO of food pantries for Foothills United Methodist Church in Gloversville, said, “The need for food is very intense. Last year alone, we served over 1,000 households, and we are beyond that number for this year.”

The need for food donations is high at the Fulmont Community Action food sites as well.

Amy Kollar, the community service program manager for Fulmont Community Action Agency, said summer tends to be a more difficult time for donations because children are out of school, and schools often have boxes set aside for food donations. When youths aren’t in school to see the posters asking for food, donations tend to slip.

“We have volunteers at all of our sites at Northville, Amsterdam, Gloversville, Fonda and Fort Plain,” said Kollar.

The number of people provided with services varies with location, but the Northville site services about 25 families every month, while the Fort Plain site services 50-plus families every month.

“We never have to turn anyone away,” Kollar said.

This is thanks to help from local church donations, individual donations, food drives, food banks and volunteers.

“We’re always looking for more volunteers – we have three or four now – but that would be a really big help,” said John Nasso, executive director for Catholic Charities of Fulton-Montgomery County.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.