Cuomo designates $4.5 million to food banks

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Monday that the state will contribute $4.5 million to food providers in New York state.

In a telephone press conference, Cuomo explained that a recent 5 percent reduction in the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program cut about $302 million from the state.

“Roughly 13 percent of the people in this state don’t have enough food to eat,” Cuomo said. “This state is going to do everything it can to try to rectify the situation. We cannot obviously make up for the cut from the federal government, but we will be providing an increase in the state grant amount of about 15 percent.”

The money will go to the 46 food distribution organizations that serve 2,600 emergency food providers across the state. Cuomo said the funding will provide about 2.8 million meals.

The Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York is located in Albany but serves the entire eastern portion of the state – from north of New York City to the Canadian border. The region encompasses 23 counties including Franklin and Essex.

Tracey Martin, associate director of the Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York, said that food bank accounts for about 41 percent of the state’s land mass.

The Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York is a private, nonprofit organization that distributed 27.7 million pounds of food throughout its region. It will get $544,293 of the $4.5 million Cuomo announced; the Joint Council for Economic Opportunity of Clinton and Franklin Counties Inc, located in Plattsburgh, will get $22,676.

“We don’t serve individuals directly, so hungry families don’t come directly here for food,” Martin said. “We’re kind of like the clearinghouse between the food industry that donates their still-good-to-eat-but-no-longer-marketable items, and we distribute them to a whole network of food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters, homes for kids with emotional difficulty or adults with substance abuse issues. We have about 1,000 different agencies that access us for food.”

Through September of this year, the food bank has given almost 1.1 million pounds of food to Franklin County residents. Essex County residents have received 200,930 pounds of food.

Martin said both counties are on par to reach a combined 1.7 million pounds of food for the year, an increase from 2012’s 1.5 million pounds.

“When the economy is terrible, people seem to realize they need to step up and help others,” Martin said.

Almost half of the food bank’s $6.3 million budget comes from donations – the food bank collects about 32 percent of its budget from fundraising events and about 16 percent from unsolicited contributions. Another 16 percent comes from grants from entities like the U.S. Department of Agriculture and United Way.

The rest of the funding comes from a variety of other sources, including a community-supported agriculture program the food bank runs, interest earned on money in the bank and cash collected from renting out unused freezer space.

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