East Syracuse: Helping the Hungry

It's easy to push a half-filled plate of food away when your stomach is full and satisfied. Many people may not even give it a second thought. But what if you suddenly find yourself in a position where each meal mattered? You've lost your job. Disaster strikes. Or you simply can't make ends meet anymore. Food then becomes an unaffordable luxury. It becomes a means for survival.

Food Bank of Central New York, a non-profit organization that works to eliminate hunger through food distribution, helps people who find themselves under these temporary and sometimes long-term circumstances. Executive Director Tom Slater said the intent of the network is to serve emergency needs.

"People who have [had] some extraordinary event in their life, whether it be a fire or a layoff, they have a temporary need [and] we're there to help them," Slater said. "Unfortunately the economy has changed and there is a recurring need among low-income families, so they are forced to come to our network, more on a regular basis."

Slater said 39 percent of the families that come into their network are employed but not given a livable wage. He said the problem with hunger is easily identifiable -- 72.5 percent of families earn incomes at or below the poverty level, and just under 50 percent of those families have annual incomes of $10,000 or less.

"The bottom line," Slater continued, "is if you pay for your housing [and] your utilities, you don't have enough money for food."

Food Bank of CNY, located in East Syracuse, serves 11 counties, working directly with more than 500 member agencies that include food pantries, soup kitchens and emergency shelters. In turn, these partners work directly with the people in need.

Food pantries are often located in churches or community centers. They distribute bags of non-prepared foods and other groceries to low-income households. Food Bank currently supplies food to 234 food pantries throughout the 11 counties.

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