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Catherine Matthews, director of the Canton food pantry. Photo: Canton Church and Community Program
Catherine Matthews, director of the Canton food pantry. Photo: Canton Church and Community Program

New program will help St. Lawrence County food banks keep shelves fuller

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A new delivery method will help St. Lawrence County food banks keep their shelves full. The Food Bank of Central New York's new retail partnership program in St. Lawrence County will expedite donations from Walmart.

The idea is simple: to get food to the people who need it faster, in a year when the brutally cold weather has made it harder for people already struggling to make ends meet.

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Reported by

Zach Hirsch
Reporter and Producer

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Heather Hudson, Director of Sourcing and Nutrition at the Food Bank of Central New York, says the nonprofit is doing what it can "to help anybody that finds themselves in a situation where they can't feed themselves and their family."

Walmart stores across the state were already donating their extra meats, dairy, and frozen goods. But individual pantries had to wait for the deliveries from Syracuse. Hudson says the Food Bank is a middleman between the stores that donate, and the pantries where the food is going. Next week in St. Lawrence County, the food bank will cut out the middleman.

Hudson says the Food Bank has been considering this new approach for a long time. "I think we just decided that now was as good a time as any to try it," she said. The staff for the food pantries in Canton, Massena, and Ogdensburg will start picking up their own donations from Walmart three times a week.

Catherine Matthews, director of the Canton food pantry, says the pilot program makes logistical sense, and it will keep her shelves full. "This is going to give me that little extra edge," Matthews said. "The community donations have been wonderful. In terms of our food pantry we're doing really quite well, we're keeping up."

She added that the Canton food pantry has been full of food lately, thanks to the kindness of the community. She says the real strain she sees among her clients comes not from a lack of food, but from this year's extreme cold.

"A lot of people have put all their money into keeping propane going so their houses can be warm," Matthews said. "And let's face it, a lot of people live in houses that are not wonderful, especially if they're renting or they're poor. We just weren't prepared for this kind of winter."

Last week, Governor Cuomo announced that the state earmarked $6 million to extend the heating assistance program for low income families, known as LIHEAP. But Matthews says most of her clients haven't seen that assistance yet.

For the people she helps, Matthews says it's either paying for food, or paying for heat. She hopes the partnership with Walmart will mean her clients won't have to make that choice.

"If they can save some money coming here for food, and they're eligible, they can use the few extra cents they've got toward a bill," she said.

If the program is successful here, the Food Bank says it will establish these partnerships in other counties.

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