1. Food Bank of Central New York is a very well-known organization. Can you tell us a little about it and who you serve?
Lynn Hy: The Food Bank has been around since 1985 and works within 11 counties. We are the distribution center that works behind the scenes for the emergency food network: food pantries, soup kitchens and emergency shelters. We acquire and distribute nutritious food to our partner programs. There are more than 400 emergency and non-emergency programs that we work with throughout the year. During our last fiscal year, we distributed more than 17.4 million pounds of food. That’s equivalent to 14.5 million meals. We have our mobile food pantry, where we do truck-to-trunk delivery of healthy foods, and we also provide SNAP Outreach.
We focus on advocacy work in our community because we believe that it’s important to inform elected officials how the pieces of legislation could affect the food bank and people who rely on food assistance programs.
2. Can you share some of your nutrition initiatives?
Debra Mimaroglu: We have several initiatives to promote and improve health and nutrition status, while enhancing individual and household knowledge and skills that encourage autonomy and resiliency for our participants. We partner with the Just Say Yes to Fruits and Vegetable program to deliver a comprehensive nutrition education workshop at emergency food programs or any community program working with adults and families who are struggling to make healthy meals while trying to stretch their food budget.
The Food Bank also partners with the Downtown Committee of Syracuse to present Just Say Yes to Fruits and Vegetables at the Farmer’s Market. This initiative inspires healthy habits, while promoting the benefits of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables. Local, fresh produce is featured in the recipe demonstrations. Each attendee receives Central New York Health Bucks, which they can use to purchase local produce from farmers at the market. This initiative increases access to local produce, while supporting local farmers. All are welcome to the workshops.
We also partner with Kids’ Café, the after-school meal sites, to provide age-appropriate nutrition education activities. Workshops empower the children to make healthy food choices for good physical and mental health.
3. There are some events that the Food Bank provides for the community. Are there any upcoming?
Debra Mimaroglu: We are always active in community events. We do not have any scheduled at this time, but in October, we were at the inaugural Mile Marketplace on the Creekwalk, where the community was brought together through hosting vendor booths representing city-based farm stands, artisans, crafters, small businesses, and non-profit agencies.
4. Is there anything new on the horizon for the Food Bank?
Lynn Hy: At the start of our new fiscal year, we embarked on a five-year strategic plan. We updated our mission, vision, and our overall goals. We’re looking forward to a lot of new enhancements, such as using community partnerships and data to enhance our programs and services. This will allow us to better meet people where they are. Many people feel that there are barriers to accessing nutritious food, like they may not have transportation to their local food pantry, or the pantry may not be open when they can get there. Our focus in the next five years is working with the communities to address the barriers people facing hunger are experiencing to increase food security and equity.
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