In the days leading up to Thanksgiving, the Food Bank of Western New York has been busy putting together holiday meals for thousands of people.
Buffalo Bills owner Ralph Wilson and his wife Mary, along with Bills players and coaches, are among those who have stepped up to help the Food Bank in recent days. Wilson and his team members donated a total of $50,000 to help the bank keep up with demand this Thanksgiving.
Many local residents have also contributed. Food Bank of WNY Board Chair Michael Mann says donations from the public are important because the need is going up.
"The support that were able to get through the government is either staying constant or, in some cases, it's even dropping. The community has stepped up to make that difference up and allow us to maintain our supply of food for the hungry in Western New York," Mann said.
Since 2000, Mann says the region's poverty rate has increased from about 10-percent of the population to about 15-percent of the population. The Food Bank serves about 350 organizations in Erie, Niagara, Cattaraugus, and Chautauqua Counties.
"So depending on where you're located and what your needs are, there's an agency out there for you," Mann said.
It's not just the poor that needs help. Mann says within a five-mile radius of Transit Road and Wehrle Drive in Amherst, the Food Bank serves 15 agencies which help feed nearly 4,000 people.
"It's unbelievable how the demographics of poverty have changed in the last few years. Seniors that were doing okay are not doing okay now. Working families that were doing okay are running out of groceries at the end of the month. That's the world we're living in today."
Mann says the Food Bank ships nearly one million pounds of food in Western New York each month.