This year, as we prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving with family and friends, it is crucial that we keep in mind the increasing number of people who are struggling to put food on the table or who do not have a place to call home.
According to a report published by the New York State Community Action Associationi , approximately 30,000 individuals live in poverty in Oneida County, including one-in-four children, and nearly one out of every two children in the City of Utica live in poverty.
Times are tough, and with the unemployment rate at 7.8 percent in Oneida Countyii , our families are struggling and working to stretch every dollar further. Many of us know someone – a friend or family member – who is out of work.
Fortunately for those in need, there are programs to help. The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) provides critical assistance to those who are in dire need of help. In addition, the Hunger Prevention and Nutrition Assistance Program (HPNAP) hosts food safety and health education programs and allocates state and federal funds to the 2,500 food banks, food pantries, soup kitchens and emergency shelters in our state. Although, even with these essential programs in place more still needs to be done.
With the need very high this year, local food banks have been stretched to the limit. Last year the Salvation Army Utica Citadel Corps’ food kitchen provided 8,500 meals to individuals last year and they anticipate an increasing demand this year.iii
But with your help, we can make sure these important services remain available. Whether it is your time, extra food or other donations, your assistance can go a long way this holiday season. We have the means to help combat hunger in our state.
If you would like to volunteer or donate food, there are a number of ways you can make a difference. The following are some of the organizations accepting donations or hosting Thanksgiving dinners or events this week in the Utica-Rome area:
First Presbyterian Church, 732-5111
1605 Genesee Street, Utica
Annual Community Thanksgiving Dinner served at noon and 1 p.m. at the church. Advance reservations preferred. Meals served buffet fashion. Donations of food items are welcome.
Utica Rescue Mission, 735-1645
212 Rutger St., Utica
The Great Thanksgiving Banquet begins at 11 a.m. on Thanksgiving, with a Thanksgiving Service featuring inspirational music by Mark Bolos in the Mission’s Chapel. Dinner immediately follows in the mission cafeteria. People can bring food to donate to the mission dinner at anytime. Please contact 735-1645, ext. 131 to donate turkeys or drop off donations to Food Services at 201 Rutger Street between 6 a.m. and 5 pm any day. Other donations may be coordinated by calling the Development Department at 735-1645 ext. 115.
Rome Rescue Mission, 337-2516
413 E. Dominick St., Rome
Open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving. Need volunteers to help out for Thanksgiving dinner, which begins roughly at 3 p.m. Also, still accepting food donations for dinner and for the food baskets.
Salvation Army of Rome, 336-4260
410 W. Dominick St., Rome
Bring food 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Food donations still needed for emergency food baskets.
Salvation Army of Utica Food Pantry, 724-8736
14 Clinton Place, Utica
Having a soup kitchen lunch at 11 a.m.-1 p.m. the day before Thanksgiving. Asking for turkeys, stuffing, fruits and vegetables, and apple pies.
Feed Our Vets, 525-9206
195/205 Genesee St., Utica
Looking for donations for Veterans. Call to donate food for Thanksgiving. Pantry is open every Wednesday.
If you are interested in lending a helping hand, there is still time to donate food or volunteer on Thanksgiving Day. I would encourage anyone who is able to assist – whether it is through food or by volunteering to serve or deliver Thanksgiving meals – to consider helping to make this holiday season brighter for our friends and neighbors who are in need of a little extra help.
i New York State Community Action Association, Poverty Report 2011
ii New York State Community Action Association, Poverty Report 2011