New York's network of food banks has re-branded and is operating under new leadership.
The Food Bank Association of New York State is fine-tuning its mission and outreach, starting with a name change to "Feeding New York State." The Albany-based not-for-profit is forging ahead under the guidance of its new executive director Dan Egan, a former division administrator at the New York State Department of Health. In 2015, he ran in the Democratic primary run for Albany County Executive, but was defeated by incumbent Dan McCoy. Egan says he is joining Feeding New York State at a critical time. "It's a network of nine regional food banks with over 5,000 member agencies and we distributed over 184 million pounds of food last year. And the reason for the name change, there really two things, one is to align with Feeding America, which is the national level food bank association, there are over 200 food banks in the United States, so there's kind of a movement nationally for everyone to name their state associations in a similar way. So you know, there's a 'Feeding Pennsylvania' and so forth. So that was part of it, it was just an aligning with our brothers and sisters in other states. The other was to just align better with our mission. You know 'Food Bank Association' is an OK name if you know what a food bank is, and I think most people do, but 'Feeding New York State' really better captures what we do. There's 2.3 million New Yorkers who are hungry, and that includes one in six children."
Egan adds food banks shouldn't be confused with food pantries. "A food pantry is usually a small volunteer-run operation, in a town or in a community that provided food directly to people in hunger. And then a food bank is sort of the wholesale level of that. They provide the food and some other assistance to the food pantry. That was all very well established in New York State and all the food banks are really exceptionally well-run organizations, but at the state level, I think that the association had a visibility issue. Part of what I'm doing is just knocking on a lotta lotta doors, calling on a lotta people, letting them know that 'Feeding New York State' exists, that we want to be a partner with farmers, with food producers, with public agencies, with private donors, to do a better job of both representing the interests of representing the food banks at the state level and getting more donations, sharing ideas across food banks, and we're doing all of that."
Egan notes there are a variety of ways people can help feed others who are hungry. "Please consider donating a few bucks, or your time. There's volunteers from every part of every community working in every food bank, hundreds of them. One of the things I suggest to people is think about the last time you went out to eat with your family. And what did you spend? Whether you went out for a slice of pizza or a nice dinner, think about what that number is, send it to your local food bank. And it will really do a lot. Second thing is help us out with advocacy, you know, call your state representative or your federal representative. On the federal level, ask for more support for SNAP and for WIC. On the state level, ask them to support food banks through the Department of Health and through the Department of Environmental Conservation, we have grants with both. The third thing I guess is the hardest. We live in some really tough times, right? And if you look at the news in the last week or two, there's so much political turmoil, people being shot, and it's awful. And I think it’s vital in times like this that we don't give into cynicism. This country is full of a lot of wonderful people, they wanna help each other out, and let's all be a part of that."
Dave Lucas: "Dan, where can our listeners go if they'd like to get more information?'
"You can follow us on the web and facebook at feedingnys.org to get more information. We've got a little map on the website so you can see what foodbank supports your area, depending on where your listeners are, you just check out that map and then call the food bank near them to make a donation. And I just hope people understand that the need out there is tremendous. It goes from the Canadian border to Staten Island and from Montauk all the way to Chataqua, its everywhere. The folks who need this food are our neighbors, they're our community members."