TAKING STOCK: Food insecurity in the Adirondack region

Above:  Volunteers Steve and Sylvia Boyce prepare backpacks full of food for school children in Ticonderoga.

“Unlike curing cancer or heart disease, we already know how to beat hunger: food.” — Mario Batali

HUNGER continues to be one of society’s most pressing issues. The World Food Programme, the world’s largest humanitarian agency fighting hunger, estimates that some 805 million people don’t have enough food to lead a healthy, active life. And while most of these people live in developing countries, hunger is also a major domestic problem.

Here in New York State, food insecurity—defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as limited consistent access to adequate food due to a lack of financial resources or other means—affects more than 2.7 million people, approximately 14 percent of the state’s population. In the five counties that comprise Adirondack Foundation’s service area—Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Hamilton, and Warren—nearly 12 percent of the population is affected by food insecurity.

In the Adirondack region, the Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York is the largest organization working to feed the poor and hungry. Spanning 23 counties from Plattsburgh to Newburgh, the Food Bank provides 32 million pounds of food annually to 1,000 agencies. In our five-county service area, the Food Bank partners with 66 agencies, including local food pantries, churches, community centers, and social service organizations.

Adirondack Foundation is committed to helping organizations like the Food Bank address food insecurity in our communities. This year, with support from our Generous Acts Fund and Adirondack Gives, we’re working with local organizations to expand the BackPack Program at area schools. Free and reduced breakfast and lunch programs feed many students during the school day—the BackPack Program discreetly provides children with backpacks full of food on Friday afternoons, so they have enough for the weekend.

Adirondack Foundation is teaming with PRIDE of Ticonderoga to provide funding for the BackPack Program at Ticonderoga and Schroon Lake schools.

“Twenty-eight percent of local schoolaged children are from families struggling to survive on incomes below the federal poverty level,” says John Bartlett, president of PRIDE’s Board of Directors. “These children, who are hungry due to reduced food intake and disrupted eating patterns, tend to suffer from more health issues and poor school attendance, behavior problems, and poor academic performance. Even moderate nutritional vulnerability can hinder cognitive development and impair young children’s abilities.”

The Adirondack for Kids Fund at Adirondack Foundation is also funding the BackPack Program at schools in Massena and Malone.

In November 2015, Adirondack Foundation will sponsor the Regional Food Bank North Country Conference in Lake Placid.