By: Greg Stapleton
In late February, the federal government ended a special emergency provision for families receiving SNAP benefits. SNAP is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, through which around 40 million Americans receive money to pay for food. To the average participant, the decrease amounted to getting $90 less per month in their spending amount.
Couple this decrease with an increase in food cost of around 10% and community members who need food the most are having an even tougher time getting it.
Some have had to cut back to only one meal a day simply because they can’t afford to have more than that.
This void is where local food pantries are most beneficial.
“Our Food Pantries are often used by SNAP participants to help close the gap between their benefits and the amount of food they need,” Sara Adams, Trinity’s Health and Wellness Division Director said. “It is why the food pantry and this summer’s mass food distribution events are so important.”
Each month, those Mass Food Distribution Events, give community members the chance to pick up food all in one location. For over 20 years, Trinity Alliance has managed and provided Mass Food Distributions in two Albany neighborhoods. This year, however, there are less events – thanks, in part, to the ever-shifting supply chain and the constant threat of inflation.
“What most people don’t realize is that most of the food that comes to Food Pantries and Food Banks is actually purchased from a retailer,” Adams said. “So, the supply chain and inflation issues that hit families that shop at the grocery store, also hit Food Banks and Pantries. That leads to everyone having less food to get to community members.”
According to the United States Department of Agriculture, nationwide food banks purchased 286 million pounds of food in the first quarter of 2022. There were still government funded programs, namely the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program, which provided food banks and food pantries will additional food. But, those programs have ended and in the first quarter of 2023, purchased food increased 20% in the first quarter of 2023.
So, with retail purchased food playing an even larger role in the donation stream, inflation, supply chain issues and other things are having a larger effect on the amount of food available for community members who need it. People donating can offset some of the shift in food sourcing, but it takes everyone’s help to get there.
“Donations are an important part in helping our food pantry effect so many lives,” Adams said. “With the rising cost of food and the constant supply chain issues, donations are needed as much now as ever.”
Trinity’s 2023 mass food distribution events are scheduled at two different sites over the course of the summer. The ones at 20 South Ferry St. will be held on May 10, July 12 and September 13. The ones at 47 Lark St. will be held on Jun 14, August 9 and October 11. Participants are encouraged to bring carts, bags and anything else to help them carry the food away.
“We basically go until all the food is gone,” Adams said. “We start at 8 a.m. and when the food is gone, we break down and head out. Sometimes it’s gone in a couple of hours. For the safety of the food, we’re always done by noon.”
These mass food distributions are about more than just giving food away, however. They’ve turned into a chance for the community to gather, to share stories and to learn about things beyond food.
“At our April event, we invited the Northeast New York Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health to lead a seminar about workers rights,” Adams said. “Giving people the chance to learn about workplace hazards and what to do if you are injured on the job is often important to community members who come to our mass distribution events. The two go hand-in-hand.”
If you would like to donate food to Trinity’s food pantries, please email [email protected]. If you have questions or would like to learn more about the mass food distribution events, please call 518.449.5155 or email [email protected].