ACCORD Emergency Pantries Are Meeting the Mission of Community Action
Staff and volunteers at the ACCESS Center Food Pantries in Bolivar and Belmont often help families navigate through life’s changing circumstances which have led to food insecurity. Stories like these are common, and there are hundreds more told by individuals and families who fit into a wide array of demographics and socioeconomic standings. Hunger does not discriminate. Additionally, Allegany County residents face an alarming poverty rate (17%,) with over 24.5% of our children under the age of 18 live in poverty, (2015 New York State Community Action Association Poverty Report, Feb 2016.)
Recently, Jon and Laura, grandparents raising their grandchildren, visited the ACCESS Center’s emergency food pantry. It took a little while to fill out the paperwork, so grandpa went to pick up the grandkids from school. When he returned with the children, Laura and the Services Navigator had stacked the boxes of food on the porch for the family load into their vehicle. “You should have seen those beautiful little girls’ eyes,” the Navigator shared. “One of the children said with amazement in her voice, ‘Is this free?’” Her Grandmother told them happily, “Yes!” Jon and Laura were so thankful and relieved to be provided this assistance, as their SNAP benefits were recently decreased.
Dan is a disabled veteran, whose wife, Lisa, is expecting a baby very soon. Because she is on disability, their income has significantly decreased. Accessing the food pantry is one option for the family to stretch their household budget until Lisa can go back to work.
Amanda’s son is in college, and she recently lost her job. She is using the emergency pantry until she can find a new job and get back on her feet.
Lewis, utilizes the emergency pantry because he cannot cover his single-person household expenses, despite holding a full time job.
Jill and Jason are recovering from the losses they experienced after a house fire. They visit the emergency pantry occasionally to help meet their food needs while they invest more earned income in rebuilding their lives.
ACCORD’s pantries are primarily funded by the Allegany County United Way and Foodlink of Rochester, Inc. Generous donations are also provided by community groups and individual donors on a regular basis, which all helps to keep pantry shelves well-stocked. In 2015, the pantries provided 1,296 boxes of food to individuals, including 2,172 adults, 1,266 children. Many emergency pantry customers utilize the free mobile markets as well. Mobile markets (free supplemental food distributions) provided 2,124 families with supplemental food.
Mobile Markets are free and open to the public, with no income limits or residency requirements. Several customers ride the public transit to visit mobile markets, for multiple reasons. Sometimes, there are no supplemental food distributions offered in their home towns, or they access mobile markets as a means to expand their access to food. One client rides the bus from Wellsville to access Bolivar’s Mobile Markets. She says it is worth it to come to Bolivar and Andover mobile markets for the variety of food provides her family. Another woman attends the mobile markets, and makes sure that her children and their families participate too, volunteering to deliver boxes to them if they cannot attend in person.
Food insecurity affects the health and welfare of the elderly and disabled as well. In 2015, 203 elderly customers accessed the food pantry. One couple shared with the Services Navigator they have several health issues, so using the food pantry every 60 days (the pantry’s visitation guideline) allows them to use some of their income for medication copays and other needs. Another elderly widow, who is home bound, accesses ACCORD’s food resources with the help of family and neighbors.
Families who are struggling to make ends meet- those families who desperately need food resources- are the focus of our pantries. Assisting families to develop skills through building relationships and the provision of education programs through a strength based services approach has proven effective in assisting families to create a healthy connection with their community. ACCORD is proud to support families in our community, and thanks to the Allegany County United Way, ACCORD’s emergency food pantries have critical funding to meet those needs.
For more information about ACCORD programs, please visit www.accordcorp.org or call (585) 268-7605, ext. 1001.
All names have been changed to protect identity.