Guilderland Food Pantry unveils new facility to meet greater hunger need

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As regional food insecurity rises, local food banks have faced the added pressure of keeping up with increasing demand. The Guilderland Food Pantry has expanded amid a 55 percent increased use of its services over the past year. 

The pantry unveiled its newly renovated facility at a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Thursday, where volunteers and community members celebrated the organization’s efforts to keep local families fed. The renovation increased the facility’s footprint, headquartered at Christ’s Church in Guilderland, from 1,100 to 2,400 square feet.

“The reason we grew is because we have to meet the needs of the community and right now the numbers are staggering,” John McDonnell, executive director of the pantry, said.

A spike in the pantry’s service levels illustrates a growing need for food assistance in Guilderland and surrounding areas. In 2021, the nonprofit distributed 21,636 meals to1,205 families. This year, they are expecting to serve more than 36,000 meals to 1,708 families.

“Between inflation, all of the extra stimulus money disappearing, rent going up, gas going up, energy prices going up…we have a lot of folks out there whose paychecks are not going up,” McDonnell added.

He said the former space was unable to provide ample room to process orders, store goods, pack food or offer privacy for telephone intake. The expansion will give the pantry the capacity to meet both current and future needs of the community – such as making food more quickly available to families, obtaining and storing more perishable products (dairy and frozen foods), receiving more donations, purchasing larger quantities of food and preparing holiday meals more efficiently.

Renovations made include updating electrical outlets to accommodate cold storage units, replacing overhead lighting, expanding the pantry’s “backpack program” space which provides weekend food to school children, upgrading shelves and installing a new air handling system that allows for better temperature control for food storage.

The pantry looks much different than when it opened in 1979, taking up just 60 square feet in a closet at Hamilton Union Church. Along with the facility size, the volunteer base has grown over the years to its current 55 members who run the nonprofit’s operations, including providing delivery services to 40 percent of its families.

“A lot has changed since 1979 but one thing that hasn’t changed is that people wake up every day hungry – and that’s been a longstanding issue that we’ve been dealing with in the state legislature and the county legislature,” said Albany County Legislator Mark Grimm,

Also attending Thursday’s event were State Senator Michelle Hinchey,  Assemblymember Patricia Fahey, Albany County Legislator Dennis Feeney and Guilderland Town Supervisor Amanda Beedle.

Fahey discussed state efforts to improve food assistance programs, like the $2.7 million grant announced by Governor Kathy Hochul in June that increased funding to food banks throughout New York.

“If a child is not secure about where their next meal is coming from, they can’t focus on their schoolwork or they can’t focus on athletics,” she said. “The difference it makes in a family is just tremendous.”

The Guilderland Food Pantry is open six days a week from 9:30 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. Those interested in donating food can also visit the Guilderland YMCA Food Drive on Sept. 13 or contribute monetary donations through the pantry’s website (where food orders are also processed).

In other food bank-related news, Hannaford has announced a $300,000 donation to The Food Pantries for the Capital District in support of the organization’s healthy meal delivery program, which prioritizes nutritious foods for individuals and families in-need.

 

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