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A volunteer unloads Food Sense packages at the Potsdam Neighborhood Center on Thursday morning. Photo: Zach Hirsch
A volunteer unloads Food Sense packages at the Potsdam Neighborhood Center on Thursday morning. Photo: Zach Hirsch

Food Sense program offers a discount to all

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Next week, Congress will begin negotiating a new Farm Bill. One of the major sticking points is the food stamp program. The House and Senate are very far away over how much to cut from food stamps, but it seems likely there will be a cut of some sort.

But food stamps are not the only option for low-income families. The Food Bank of Central NY is offering discounted packages of healthy food to anybody - no questions asked.

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Reported by

Zach Hirsch
Reporter and Producer

It’s a chilly, wet morning at the Potsdam Neighborhood Center. About 10 volunteers and staff are unloading 58 cases of food from an industrial truck. 

All this frozen produce, meat, fish, and mac-n-cheese is for the Food Sense program. The staff are going to divide the bulk delivery into smaller packages, and then sell them for around half the normal retail price. The idea is simple: to give a discount to anyone who might need it. 

"This is geared towards anybody. People with very good household incomes do partake in this program."

Daisy Cox is the director of the Potsdam neighborhood center. She says hunger itself is a serious problem. But asking for help can be taboo for many people.

"I don’t think that anybody ever wakes up and says, 'I wanna see Daisy at the food pantry.' It’s a very difficult thing to reach out and ask for help. Especially with something as close to a family's basic needs as food. To not be able to afford to provide for your family is very humiliating," she said.

Cox says that’s exactly why Food Sense is set up this way. It’s just a good deal, available to anyone who wants to take advantage of it.

"By not having any income requirements at all, it's also meeting the need of the working poor," she said.

The food comes from the Food Bank of Central New York. The non-profit’s Brian McManus says Food Sense doesn’t work like a business.

"It is a food buying club. It’s a total break-even program," he said.

The Food Bank gets the items at bulk value - and then delivers them without marking up the price, like businesses do.

"So no one else would ever do that because they would need to make some kind of profit whereas we don’t."

In the North Country, Food Sense is available in Lewis, St. Lawrence, and Jefferson counties. Pick-up happens at the end of each month.

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