Several food collection drives are underway to benefit Feedmore WNY, with more in the works for November. The Buffalo-based not for-for-profit agency reports regional food insecurity has risen sharply over the past two years, and is only expected to increase as the nation continues through a pandemic.
Feedmore, the organization formed in a merger between the Food Bank of WNY and Meals on Wheels in 2019, distributed 12 million pounds of food from January through September 2020. That, according to spokesperson Anne McKenna, matches the total distribution for all of 2019.
"And that was just through the end of September," she said. "So going into the holiday season, our busiest time of the year, our busiest distribution time of the year, we really need as much help as we can get."
The national organization Feeding America estimates food insecurity in Feedmore's service area - Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Erie and Niagara Counties - has climbed to 16.4 percent, an increase of 41 percent from 2018. The COVID pandemic and its economic disruptions play a leading role in the increased need. Feeding America, according to McKenna, predicts the rising demand and food insecurity will continue to rise over the next 24 to 36 months.
She encourages people affected by an economic challenge, whether it be the loss of a job, a family illness or other emerging challenge, to come forward and take advantage of their emergency food program.
"We're here in case of that emergency situation where your family might need a little bit of assistance," McKenna said. "We don't want anyone to have to make the decision between paying their gas bill and paying to put food on the table. And that's really why we're here. And we really hope that if you are in need of food assistance, that you will give us a call, our number is 822-2002."
In the meantime, numerous events to collect non-perishable items are underway throughout the region. Two are happening on Saturday. Resurrection Church in Amherst is hosting a drive from 2 p.m. until 5 p.m., while Urban Air in the Walden Galleria is hosting a collection from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m.
More events are planned for November.
"We're working very closely with Kaleida Health and all 29 of their locations are currently collecting food for our Rock Out Hunger drive, which will be taking place between November 17 and November 24," McKenna said. "The YMCA is doing a pre-Turkey Trot food drive at all seven of their locations. The Niagara Fashion Outlets Million Meals Challenge is going on right now. And there are several other local and private food drives that are happening at many organizations throughout Western New York as well."