Picture this: a family sits down for a holiday meal. The table is set, anticipation for the meal has been growing throughout the day, and stomachs are growling as visions of holiday staples fill their heads. Only there’s no food.
It’s a situation many families face in WNY — during the holidays and throughout the year.
In any given month, the Food Bank of WNY provides food and support to more than 44,000 families and 135,000 individuals throughout its four-county (Erie, Niagara, Chautauqua, and Cattaraugus) service area.
Justin Guerin, the operations director for the Food Bank of WNY, has been with the organization for over 15 years and says the need is especially crucial during the holidays. Guerin, who oversees warehouse operations, food distribution and procurement and purchasing, said they can see a spike in need anywhere from 20 to 40 percent.
Additional factors influencing need include inclement weather, the state of the economy, and personal factors such as medical bills or car repairs.
"So many of those we service are considered the working poor and are really just barely holding on," he said. "Sometimes food is kind of difficult to fit in there with everything else. That’s why we’re here — to make sure we’re able to provide smiles on everybody’s faces who need it for the holidays."
Guerin was also quick to highlight the role they play year-round.
"Obviously hunger’s 365 days a year and we work every day. We’re grossly aware of the fact that even though there’s a surge in sympathy and outpouring of community support during the holidays, the day after Thanksgiving and the day after Christmas, we’re still out there making sure if there are people who are part of our member agency network in need, we’re able to provide the resources for them."
Despite the increase in need and distribution at holiday time, challenges are minimized with the help of volunteers, who Guerin credited as the "lifeblood" of the organization. Guerin also said that a dollar donation helps to provide approximately six meals. With enough food distributed last year to provide more than 13 million meals, each dollar is crucial to their operation and the success of their 341 member agencies.
For more information on how you can support the Food Bank of WNY through volunteerism or donations, visit Foodbankwny.org.
Story topics: BufFYI