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Orders increase at CNY Food Bank with more families in need

The Food Bank of Central New York.

TheFood Bank of Central New Yorkhas seen an increase in orders from the 280 emergency food pantries and soup kitchens they serve, since the start of the coronavirus crisis. Those agencies have also had to change the way they distribute food to families.

Karen Belcher, interim executive director of the Food Bank, said they distributed an additional 500,000 pounds of food in March, compared to a typical month.

“These past few weeks have been pretty heavy with orders and agencies trying to get their pantries restocked as they’re seeing more people come to them for help,” Belcher said.

The Food Bank also had 500 families show up to its mobile food pantry.

“There’s people who have never had to use the emergency food network before, having to find themselves asking for some help right now, because with everything happening, they don’t have their job and they’ve lost their income right now, to help them to get food,” Belcher said.

The mobile food pantry is in a different area each week. Families are able to drive through and get a box of prepackaged food. The Food Bank is asking its partner agencies to also change their models of how to distribute food, by using drive through or scheduling appointments to pick up prepackaged boxes.

“That way, they don’t have individuals and their families congregating in their pantries,” Belcher said.

Donations from retailers are back up after an initial panic depleted their extra food supply. Belcher said the Food Bank is also planning mass distribution sites in the event that volunteers and coordinators at food pantries get sick and have to close.

Tom Magnarelli is a reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area. He joined WRVO as a freelance reporter in 2012 while a student at Syracuse University and was hired full time in 2015. He has reported extensively on politics, education, arts and culture and other issues around central New York.