It often takes a village to raise the quality of life for families without means to obtain food, clothing and shelter.
The food bank of Cooperstown has been providing for local families for more than 35 years.
“We are averaging about 180 families a month, which is about 625 individuals,” said Audrey Murray, director of the Cooperstown Food Pantry. “In July, we served 170 families, (which is) 614 individuals.”
Cooperstown Food Pantry, located at 25 Church St. in the First Presbyterian Church, has been receiving food donations from the Cooperstown Farmers’ Market for the past three years. In the beginning, the merchants at the farmers’ market would donate leftover produce.
More recently, vouchers for the farmers’ market have been given to the people who get food from the food pantry.
“Audrey is very innovative,” said Lyn Weir, manager of the Cooperstown Farmers’ Market. “It is our mission to increase the availability of fresh produce and to increase the farmers’ profits. Our partnership with the food bank gets fresh food to people who may not be able to afford it and it gives the farmer a guaranteed sale.”
According to Murray, the pantry provides vouchers to its clients for the farmers’ market from June until October or November, depending on the budget and cash flow.
“Families get between $5 and $20, depending on the size of the family. In addition, children up to the age of 16 get ‘Give ‘em a Spout-Out’ vouchers of $2 each to spend at the market to encourage them to learn about and eat more fresh fruits and vegetables,” she said.
Cooperstown Farmers’ Market bills for the vouchers that are used.
“We have about a 73 percent rate of usage for the vouchers issued,” Murray said. “(That is) higher than we expected when we began the program three years ago.”
The voucher system is successful according to Weir.