Feeding Westchester on the State of Hunger in the County
Wednesday, March 3 marked one year since the first COVID-19 case was confirmed in Westchester. In that time, Feeding Westchester, the county’s largest nonprofit hunger-relief organization, has responded to record need in the community – serving more than twice as many residents in 2020 compared to prior years. Looking ahead, the nonprofit warns that hunger will remain a significant challenge faced by thousands locally long beyond an improved health landscape brought about by COVID vaccinations and eventual herd immunity.
According to a study by Feeding America, food insecurity in Westchester County has risen by more than 50 percent during the pandemic. From April through December 2020, Feeding Westchester’s network of nearly 300 community partners and programs throughout the county served an average of 275,000 to 300,000 hungry residents each month compared to 125,000 to 150,000 people monthly pre-COVID. Throughout 2020, the nonprofit distributed 22 million pounds of food, or 18.4 million meals.
“Every day, individuals and families are making tough choices – often having to choose between paying for rent, medication, or food,” said Karen C. Erren, President & CEO of Feeding Westchester. “The level of hunger in our own backyard remains at a record high and our neighbors in need rely on us to continue to provide food.”
In New York State, roughly one in six individuals struggles with hunger. This includes more than 200,000 residents who are either food insecure or at risk and in need of assistance. Sadly, many of these individuals do not fall below the threshold to qualify for SNAP benefits and other nutrition programs.
“New York State has been hit hard by the pandemic, with a 46 percent increase in need statewide,” Dan Egan, Executive Director, Feeding New York State. “Our food banks had to increase their efforts correspondingly, and innovate with new ways of getting food to our neighbors. In the first ten months of the pandemic, we distributed almost 400 million pounds of food statewide – a 60 percent increase. Feeding Westchester led the way in responding to this crisis.”
Erren continued, “While the demand is great, we are fortunate to have county leadership who understands these staggering needs and thank County Executive Latimer for earmarking $2 million to address hunger in Westchester in his 2021 Operating Budget.”
“What our County has gone through – and the efforts undertaken by Feeding Westchester and organizations like it – this past year are nothing short of extraordinary,” said Westchester County Executive George Latimer. “The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted every facet of our lives, and issues with food insecurity have taken center focus. I am proud to have included $2 million toward this crisis in the 2021 County Budget and look forward to working with Feeding Westchester to find solutions to this long-term challenge.”
Early 2021 demand remains high. In January alone, Feeding Westchester provided 1.5 million pounds of food, or 1.25 million meals, to nearly 215,000 individuals throughout the county.
“The economic impact of COVID-19 will last well past the time when we reach herd immunity and we, as a community, need to be prepared to meet that ongoing need,” explained Erren. “While we are hopeful that we will see a decrease in demand, we distributed 8.5 million meals in 2019 – long before COVID hit Westchester. There has long been – and will continue to be – a need to serve Westchester residents struggling with food insecurity. We must continue to step up to ensure nobody in Westchester goes hungry.”
Every $1 donated to Feeding Westchester provides up to three meals for local children, seniors, and families struggling with hunger. To find help, or to help, visit feedingwestchester.org or call (914) 923-1100. For the latest news and updates, follow @FeedingWestchester on Facebook and Instagram and @FeedWestchester on Twitter.
About Feeding Westchester
Feeding Westchester is the county’s leading nonprofit hunger-relief organization at the heart of a network of nearly 300 partners and programs. With a mission to nourish their neighbors in the fight against hunger, the organization sources and distributes good, nutritious food and other resources throughout every community in Westchester County. In the last year, Feeding Westchester delivered 22 million pounds of food or 18.4 million meals through soup kitchens, food pantries, schools, shelters, residential programs, and mobile distributions. The nonprofit is committed to creating a community where all people have access to the food they need today, and the fundamental resources to build a better tomorrow. Feeding Westchester is located at 200 Clearbrook Road, Elmsford, NY 10523. For more information, visit feedingwestchester.org.
http://www.feedingwestchester.org – Feeding Westchester
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