ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Hunger Action Day this year is putting the focus on a troubling impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, more people are going without the food they need to be healthy.
Mark Dwyer, the Communications Manager at Foodlink, discussed growing food insecurity in the Rochester and Finger Lakes region Thursday during News 8 at Noon.
“Today is Hunger Action Day and it’s part of our annual Hunger Action Month Awareness campaign,” said Dwyer. “This is a Feeding America driven initiative. Feeding America is the nationwide network of food banks that we’re a part of. This is just a time of year to really drive home the point and raise awareness that hunger exists in all of our communities, and ways that people can get involved – whether that be donating, volunteering, or advocating. It’s just a month-long awareness campaign.”
Typically September events like the “Festival of Food” are a fun way to support Foodlink’s mission, but not this year. “We all know the pandemic has had a pretty devastating effect on households throughout our region and all over the nation and the world, and definitely effecting families abilities to put food on the table,” Dwyer said. “We heard from an initial study done by Feeding America early on in this pandemic, they were projecting the rise in food insecurity and they said in our region alone it’s going to be a 45 percent spike and that translates to about 60,000 additional people, on top of the 135,000 people that were already struggling with food insecurity, but another 60,000 people that are now impacted by food insecurity.”
Foodlink been at the center of a community effort to meet this growing need since the start of the pandemic, especially when it comes to school-aged children. “We know that there’s a lot of children out there who really rely on school for their meals, for breakfast and some lunches, and then the after-school programs that get meals as well,” noted Dwyer. “This disruption in our normal school schedule certainly caused a great deal of pain and frustration for families trying to feed their kids this time of year, so Foodlink is working with the City of Rochester, the school district, and others to make sure meals are available to students and families. Traditionally kids would gather in places to eat their meals but since March we’ve been operating with a grab-and-go format, so parents can go to site, pick up meals, and make sure their kids have nutritious and delicious meals to serve to their kids. And these sites are listed on our website. It’s a lot of schools and rec centers around Rochester.”
FoodlinkNY.org is the website for more information. “It’s a great resource for people not only looking for food, but also people looking to support us, whether that be a donation or volunteering,” said Dwyer. “We’re still accepting volunteers in small numbers both at our facility at Foodlink and at now an offsite facility in Henrietta where we’re packing these food boxes that you’ve probably been seeing being handed out at drive thru distributions all over the region, and so volunteer support is critical, and being an advocate and raising awareness on Hunger Action Day.”