In Albany, Sen. Gillibrand Discusses America’s Food Shortage Problem During The Pandemic | WAMC

In Albany, Sen. Gillibrand Discusses America’s Food Shortage Problem During The Pandemic

Jun 29, 2020

U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand visited a food pantry in Albany's Arbor Hill this morning to help pack healthy meals for New Yorkers struggling to make ends meet during the coronavirus pandemic.

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand at Trinity Alliance of the Capital Region’s Arbor Hill Food Pantry
Credit WAMC photo by Dave Lucas

Officials at Trinity Alliance of the Capital Region’s Arbor Hill Food Pantry say 1 in 10 people across the area it serves struggle with food insecurity.

Gillibrand, a Democrat, helped bag food and load a food pantry delivery truck. She says demand has skyrocketed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Families who used to volunteer or donate, are now part of those who need access to this food pantry. We've seen mile long, mile long waits, for a bag of groceries. Farmers have been forced to dump thousands of pounds of milk because they can't bring their produce to market." Gillibrand introduced legislation, the Food Bank Access to Farm Fresh Produce Act, in May. She says it would alleviate the strain on food banks and the food supply by cutting out middlemen, funding $8 billion in block grants to food banks to purchase fresh produce and dairy directly from farmers.

"There have been some extremely difficult times here in Albany. We've seen a recent surge in gun violence that's been devastating and it has deeply impacted this community at a time when we are already struggling with COVID and the epidemic. This pandemic and the economic crisis that it's caused has left the capital area families in need of more help than ever."

Sarah Adams is program director for Trinity's Health and Wellness division.

"In the month of, I believe it was April, we served over, we operate two pantries in the city of Albany, but at the one we're at today in Arbor Hill, we served I believe it was over 400 households, when we're usually serving around 100, 150 households per month. And we've seen that uptick sort of sustained even as we're coming out of the pandemic."

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand with Trinity Alliance of the Capital Region’s Arbor Hill Food Pantry Manager Andre Lewis
Credit WAMC photo by Dave Lucas

Food Pantry program manager Andre Lewis says the agency plans to maintain its level of service as we head into an uncertain post-covid future.

"We're doing a lot of home deliveries so we're going to maintain that to ensure that everyone within the city of Albany that we serve is served."

Dave Lucas: "Any special qualifications, like if somebody listening to this needs food, is there any income or other qualifications or stipulations?"

"Just the need. We've kind of loosened up on our regulations and criterias quite a bit to accomodate everyone, so just the need. If you live in the city of Albany, and we even stretch outside the city of Albany, so anyone that comes and there's a need, we'll serve them."

Gillibrand says during the COVID-19 crisis, more than 30 million Americans are jobless and many are struggling to put food on the table.

"We also need to reduce the pressure on the food banks. They play a vital role in our respoinse to this crisis, but they can't shoulder this burden by themselves. Expanding access to SNAP, food stamps, is what will help do that. So will delivering nutritional resources through to families that have lost access to free or reduced price school meals through the pandemic EBT program. For anyone in our country to go hungry is unconscionable."

According to Feeding America, nearly 100% of food banks across the nation reported an increase in demand for food assistance during the pandemic, with an average increase of 59%.

Also Monday, Trinity Alliance and the city of Albany announced a partnership on a COVID-19 relief effort that aims to assist families in obtaining home and healthcare products that are unavailable through SNAP and WIC programs.

If you are unable to donate at this time, a one-day in-person drive to collect items will be held on Saturday, August 1st, from 10am to 2pm in Albany’s Lincoln Park. Additional information on the drive and what items are needed can be found via the Office of Cultural Affairs website.

Social distancing guidelines will be strictly enforced. One hundred percent of all contributions go to Trinity Alliance, Inc.