In many ways, the article mirrors the experience of the Broome County Council of Churches as we distribute food through our Community Hunger Outreach Warehouse (CHOW) program. Currently, we are serving more than 8,000 people per month and are on pace to distribute nearly 2 million pounds of food this year.
A major change we have seen is the prevalence of working families that are seeking food for the first time. It is heartbreaking to learn that the children in these families do not look forward to holiday breaks because at home they do not have the school meal program and will go without food when school is in recess.
Recently the hunger needs in our community have been the catalyst for increased cooperation between CHOW and The Food Bank of the Southern Tier. There was realization that while we were distributing a combined 3 million pounds of food, the needs in our community demanded increased effort. Using statistics generated from Feeding America that are based on the population and poverty demographics in Broome County, we have determined that the current need is nearly 7 million pounds. We are not even meeting half of that.
The board of directors of both organizations realized the situation requires a commitment to a mutual mission of meeting the hunger needs in our area. In October, the Broome County Council of Churches signed an agreement with the Food Bank of the Southern Tier to be a redistribution organization. This will allow us to purchase food at a reduced rate and will assure the Food Bank that we are adopting best practices.
Further, through their national connections to resources, the Food Bank of the Southern Tier will bring with them connections that local organizations, such as our CHOW program, do not have. By utilizing the strengths of both of our organizations, we can begin to connect national resources from the Feeding America Network, with local people in our neighborhoods more efficiently and at lower cost.
It is our hope that increased accountability, cooperation, and transparency will lead us to increased services and more food for hungry people. Next year, we will begin developing a mutually accepted strategic plan for meeting the hunger needs in Broome County. We are excited to see how this partnership will evolve.
The times that we live in demand that we change how we look at hunger. There is no way that we can meet the challenges that we face alone. When we learn to trust we can begin to meet needs in new and surprising ways. We can always do better, together.
Sellepack is the executive director of the Broome County Council of Churches.