I was recently told that food drives are not the answer to feeding the less fortunate, especially during times of pandemics. There are many roots of the problem, but a few are:
- Food drives require the help of numerous volunteers that must sort through expiration dates
- Much of the food is cleared from people’s shelves, which means that the food is not very desirable, and is potentially unsafe
- The food containers might be infected, or handled by people who have a virus
- The drives bring people closer together, away from their houses during times when social distancing measures are crucial
I was made aware of these issues after I posted about the successes of a recent food drive. What I thought was beneficial to food pantries was the exact opposite, I was told, from someone who is actually on the frontlines, feeding the homeless. Instead, she said that food pantries need money to procure wholesome foods that will benefit the homeless, and others in need.
Her sentiments have been engrained upon my mind, but the last thing I wanted to do was tell people that their heartfelt efforts might actually be in vain – the verdict is still out, but I’m leaning towards the angle that food drives might not be the answer.
Then, earlier today, a reader passed along this article in the NY Post that sheds a light on Governor Cuomo’s latest efforts to financially fortify food banks and pantries with funds that will allow them to source locally procured farm produce and dairy products. Cuomo has allotted $25 million for New York food banks to source sustainable foods from Upstate farmers that were actually throwing out their unused resources due to COVID-19 related circumstances (closed restaurants, broken supply chains, etc.)
The new program, designed to provide for the farmers, while feeding the hungry masses throughout the State, is called Nourish New York. According to the article, Western NY food banks will receive $2,129,463 of those allotted spoils. From there, the food banks will roll out voucher programs, as well as drive-throughs and small-scale warehouses pick-up events.
Nourish New York should be the start of a new movement that will help food banks and farmers in the future. What was born out of a debilitating pandemic, might actually be a godsend to thousands of NY State unemployed family members down the road. This is the type of sustainable food chain that should never have been broken in the first place.
Lead image: Photo by Agence Producteurs Locaux Damien Kühn