Food banks keep giving despite increased demand

Shweta Karikehalli | The Daily StarSaturday’s Bread’s updated food options during the COVID-19 pandemic are shown on the door of the First United Methodist Church in Oneonta on Monday, April 6. 

Although they’ve adjusted operations and may be working with fewer volunteers, local food banks are still serving communities in need.

Under Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Sunday, March 22, orders, food banks are considered an essential business, permitted to stay open during the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to a CNN report on Friday, April 3, food banks nationwide are reporting a 40% increase in demand on average.

Andes Food Pantry Administrator Joe Sicinski said since the end of March, the number of weekly clients has doubled; there are now nine families as compared to the usual four or five. Sicinski said the business primarily serves Andes residents, but it will help anyone in need.

Sicinski said the uptick in visitors has been matched by an outpouring of support from the community.

“People have been literally been giving us hundreds of dollars worth of food,” Sicinski said.

The town of Andes recently voted to give the food pantry $1,000 for a needed new freezer, and a grant from rural development company the MARK project, is incoming, he said.

Andes Food Pantry is one of 16 in Delaware Opportunities’ network of county food pantries. Delaware Opportunities can be reached at 607-746-1685.

Sicinski said the increased demand may be because of pandemic-related job losses or reduction in working hours. Before the health crisis, people could only visit the pantry once a month to pick up three days worth of food, he said. The monthly restriction has been lifted now, Sicinski said, but he stressed the pantry is an emergency food source only, not a substitute for the grocery store.

“We are being as generous as we can, because of the health crisis and people possibly losing their jobs,” Sicinski said. “If someone is having a food emergency then they can call me at home or they can come in on Friday and we will help them as best we can.”

Sicinski can be reached at 845-676-3312. The food pantry is open for distribution Fridays from 3 to 6 p.m. and donations are being accepted Thursdays from 3 to 6 p.m.

Oneonta-based volunteer soup kitchen Saturday’s Bread is still feeding the community, but at a distance instead of in a group setting, coordinator Kendra Beijen said.

People can still arrive at 66 Chestnut St. in Oneonta between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. on Saturdays to pick up food. Guests can only enter one at a time and markings on the floor keep them six feet away from each other.

Beijen said the organization has never missed a Saturday in almost 28 years of service and aims to keep the record going. She said it is operating with a “skeleton crew” to reduce the number of people in the same space, but local grocery stores continue to donate.

She said guests have been appreciative that they can still get food at Saturday’s Bread, even if they can’t enjoy the same group dining experience.

“As long as we have the food and we’re able, we’re gonna keep going,” she said.

Call Saturday’s Bread at 607-386-0522 or email SB.Oneonta@gmail.com to inquire about food delivery.

Shweta Karikehalli, staff writer, can be reached at skarikehalli@thedailystar.com or 607-441-7221. Follow her @DS_ShwetaK on Twitter.

Recommended for you