By Judith Fales
Imagine not knowing where your next meal will come from, or how you will feed your children. Imagine being disabled, housebound, or unable to shop for, or cook your meals. What would you do if the only meals your children could depend on were the ones they received in school? What happens when school is closed?
FeedMore WNY is a remarkable organization that came together in 2019 when the Food Bank of WNY joined forces with Meals on Wheels. Located in two buildings in Buffalo, FeedMore utilizes 112,000 square feet to store and cook food for those in need. This need is so great that the organization is planning a new 200,000 square foot unified facility in Hamburg to better serve Western New Yorkers facing food insecurity.
Catherine Shick, FeedMore’s public relations manager, explains that the need for services has increased since COVID. “We provided services to 197,000 people in 2022. Both the tragic mass shooting at Tops Market and the blizzard last winter further impacted the need. Federal cutbacks have also compounded the problem, such as the end of emergency allotments for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP),” says Shick. She adds, “There is no one face of food insecurity. FeedMore WNY provides services to community members of all ages, from newborns to age 104, the oldest person receiving our services.”
FeedMore assists residents of Erie, Niagara, Cattaraugus, and Chautauqua counties, and distributes food to its partner food pantries, soup kitchens, and other hunger-relief agencies that have brick-and-mortar locations. FeedMore WNY also operates a Mobile Food Pantry Program, which provides perishable items such as meats, fresh vegetables, and fruits to communities, free of charge. FeedMore’s Farm Market Program accepts SNAP benefits and sells produce at a lower price than local food markets. Vegetables and herbs grown hydroponically in the organization’s container farms under LED lights are distributed through their farm market trucks.
The Home Delivered Meals Program (formerly Meals on Wheels) provides a hot meal for lunch and a cold meal for dinner to people ages 60+, and also to those with disabilities. Another important program is the Backpack Program, which allows school-aged children to receive a variety of healthy foods, including when school is not in session. Each student in the program receives a bag of nutritious, kid-friendly food to take home each week that they often share with other family members.
FeedMore WNY also partners with Western New York Integrated Care Collaborative and Independent Health to provide nutritious meals and well-being checks to vulnerable community members who have been discharged from the hospital and cannot prepare their own meals. “We have a variety of programs, whether you are a child in school, a homebound adult, or a working parent trying to make ends meet on a limited income,” says Shick.
FeedMore’s RISE program (Readying Individuals for Success and Employment) is free for all participants enrolled in the 10-week course. Nationally recognized certifications are earned for employment involving logistics and working in warehouses. RISE graduates receive job interviews and are often hired by local companies through a partnership with FeedMore.
FeedMore WNY relies on donations from the community in order to provide nutritious food and vital programs to neighbors in need. One of the ways you can support FeedMore WNY’s mission is by purchasing tickets for the upcoming fundraising event, Party at the Pier, presented by Tops Friendly Markets on Friday, August 18, at Wilkeson Pointe on the Buffalo waterfront. Party at the Pier will feature food from Fresh Catch Poke Company, both seafood and non-seafood items, along with music, and more. Those who attend must be age 21 and older. Tickets and more information are available at www.feedmorewny.org.
Anyone interested in learning more about FeedMore WNY, including food assistance programs, and how to volunteer or donate, can visit www.feedmorewny.org or call 716-822-2002.