Assemblyman Matt Slater (R,C-Yorktown) joined staff from Feeding Westchester, advocates against food insecurity and local elected officials for a press conference last Friday at St. Mary’s Food Pantry in Mohegan Lake to announce new legislation to combat food insecurity in communities and schools.
“Food insecurity is a serious issue that really came to light during the pandemic, and the demand on local food pantries has yet to subside,” Slater said. “Coupled with record-high inflation that is gripping society, we need to find innovative programs that support these partners like First Presbyterian Church and St. Mary’s Food Pantry. I’ve introduced legislation in the Assembly which creates a grant program that supports municipalities that invest in these types of community gardens, like Garden of Hope in Yorktown, and requires that all the food grown is donated directly to a local pantry to help needy families.”
Slater’s legislation promotes community-based gardens, which donate food to local pantries to combat food insecurity and hunger. The group also addressed the importance of New York State to fund school-based meals for school children, which studies show improve graduation rates and educational performance.
“Our food pantry before the pandemic in 2019 was serving about 85 or 90 families a week and that jumped to about 500 in two weeks. We currently serve about 200 families per week, and we don’t see that changing. Hunger is a trailing indicator, and it takes families a while to get back on their feet even after they’ve found employment. The first two years of the pandemic we spent over $150,000 purchasing food, which doesn’t include donations or what we get from Feeding Westchester, so the demand is very high,” said Cindy Smith, St. Mary’s Food Pantry & Food Security Task Force member.
“While this might just seem like a northern Westchester issue, it’s really a statewide issue. As an educator, I see that food insecurity for students should be the last thing they worry about. A student who’s hungry can’t focus and can’t focus on what’s important and I’m so happy to see that this is an issue being addressed in Albany, and more importantly, it’s an issue that needs to be funded in Albany,” said Adam Kaufman, President of the Lakeland School District Board of Education.