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Fighting food insecurity for children.

Regional Food Bank of Northeastern NY BackPack Program

The Regional Food Bank of Northeastern NY has seen exponential growth in demand since first opening its doors in 1982. Today, the Food Bank provides over 55 million pounds of food a year to 1,000 agencies. Through its Fight Hunger Bag and Bloomin’ 4 Good programs, Hannaford has donated almost $33,000 to the BackPack Program.

Tell us about the Regional Food Bank of Northeastern NY.

The mission of the Regional Food Bank is to alleviate hunger and prevent food waste. We work toward this mission by ensuring that all products available for donation reach the Food Bank and are distributed judiciously to our member agencies; by practicing responsible stewardship; and by actively participating in the community to increase awareness of hunger and poverty.

The Regional Food Bank was created by a group of food pantry coordinators and anti-hunger advocates in June 1982. The Food Bank operated for seven years in a commercial storage warehouse, and in 1989 moved into a newly constructed 21,000 square-foot warehouse. We outgrew this facility in less than four years and moved the operation to a modern 42,000 square-foot warehouse in 1993. In 2017, the Food Bank completed a major renovation project to significantly expand its warehouse storage space in an effort to meet the ever-growing requests for food assistance. The Food Bank now has a 70,000 square-foot building to accommodate donations.

From Plattsburgh to Newburgh, in urban, rural, and suburban communities, the Food Bank provides over 55 million pounds of food a year to 1,000 agencies.

What services you are supplying to your community?

The Regional Food Bank provides massive quantities of food every year to help feed hungry people in 23 counties of eastern New York. It also responds in a major way to assist people with food assistance during disasters. It is the only not-for-profit organization in the region that can work to alleviate food insecurity on such a wide scale.

We partner with 1,000 agencies serving the hungry throughout our service area as well as provide direct service to individuals through our BackPack and School Pantry Programs, Senior Food Delivery Program, and Drive-Thru Pantry Programs.

The BackPack Program serves nearly 7,000 students in 241 schools across 22 counties.

Although free and reduced breakfast and lunch programs provide significant nutritional benefits to students during the school day, many disadvantaged children do not have access to regular meals when school is not in session. The BackPack Program helps alleviate child hunger by discreetly providing hungry children with backpacks full of nutritious and easy-to-prepare food on Friday afternoons so they have food to eat throughout the weekend. The BackPack Program serves nearly 7,000 students in 241 schools across 22 counties.

Tell us a story that illustrates the good work you are doing.

Jacob, a first grader at a local school, displays anxiety around food: rushing the lunch line, gobbling up the food and asking for more, and asking his classmates for their uneaten leftovers. At the end of the week, his anxiety grows; school meals aren’t available on the weekends and what will he eat until school breakfast on Monday morning? 

His teacher, seeing the need, enrolls Jacob in the BackPack Program.  Now, on Friday afternoon, Jacob gets a bag filled with food that he can eat throughout the weekend; childhood classics like oatmeal, cereal,  mac and cheese, PB&J,  and pasta and sauce.  He is now confident that he will have food to eat all weekend, and can return to school on Monday ready to learn.  Jacob knows that the school and the community care about him and want to help him to reach his potential, and this food will help him and his family get through tough times.   

He is now confident that he will have food to eat all weekend, and can return to school on Monday ready to learn.

What is your greatest achievement or contribution to the community?

We are most proud of our response to our neighbors in need resulting from the COVID crisis. Our staff worked throughout the pandemic to deliver fresh, nutritious food to those who are hungry in our region. We delivered 55.8 million pounds of food which equates to 46.5 million meals. This represents a 40% increase in volume. We found new partners to work with and developed new ways to get the food to those affected by the pandemic including direct delivery to seniors, expanded School Pantry and BackPack Programs, drive-thru food distribution and enhanced delivery of New York State produce and dairy. We never shut down. We never missed a day. We worked together through the height of the crisis and continue to work with those affected by the pandemic and affected by the resulting economic difficulties.

What do you want people to know about Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York?

First, that we have the most dedicated and hardworking employees who are committed to always being there to provide nutritious food to our neighbors in need. Second, our organization relies primarily on philanthropy to provide food to the hungry ($10-12 million per year). And, third, we work with amazing partners including food pantries, soup kitchens, schools and senior centers as well as 16,000 volunteers to achieve our mission.

How will you use the funds raised from the Hannaford Fight Hunger Bag program?

Funds raised from these programs go toward our BackPack Program, which provides children in need with backpacks full of nutritious and easy-to-prepare food on Friday afternoons so they have food to eat throughout the weekend when school is not in session. More than 6,500 children each year are helped through the BackPack Program.

Is there anything you’d like to add?

We are extremely grateful to Hannaford and their customers for supporting the Food Bank’s mission through these programs! If you are interested in learning more about the Food Bank, please visit our website at regionalfoodbank.net.

Molly Nicol is Chief Executive Officer of the Regional Food Bank of Northeastern NY. She joined the organization in 2021.