The Food Bank for Westchester
One common misconception about hunger relief efforts is that all food is donated.
Toby Ives, Interim Executive Director of the Food Bank for Westchester, notes that many products must be purchased “to make sure we have the basics of a complete meal.”
“Thirty years ago, Food Banks rarely purchased food – we got it donated – but it’s not possible now,” he says. “Donation streams are smaller and much of what would have been donated is now in secondary markets as manufacturers try to recoup some of their cost.”
Coordinating the purchase of food products is an important part of the Food Bank operation. “Our goal is always to come in below wholesale market prices and pass on the savings to the agencies that buy food from us,” states Ives.
Headquartered in Elmsford, the Food Bank for Westchester operates a 37,000-square-foot distribution center serving 226 hunger relief programs throughout the county. The Food Bank is one of 200 members of Feeding America, the national food-bank network.
In fiscal year 2011-2012, the Food Bank distributed nearly 7 million pounds of food, 3.9 million pounds of which were donated. The food distribution network handled about 2.4 million requests for food, and provided food to approximately 90,000 individuals.
The food that is donated comes from major food companies and growers all across the country, as well as the U.S. Department of Agriculture, but the Food Bank must arrange and pay for transportation to bring those tractor-trailers of donated food to Westchester. Even donated food is not free.
And it’s not just canned goods; today’s food banks transport and store refrigerated and frozen provisions as well. “That adds a whole new aspect to the logistics,” Ives says.
The Food Bank, which has 28 employees, received a grant in June 2012 from Kraft Foods to purchase a “Mobile Food Pantry” truck with compartments for dry, cold and frozen food so that it can go to underserved areas and distribute nutritious foods directly to clients.