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With $200,000 in New Funding, School Food Centers Look to Expand Throughout Broome County

Elmira, N.Y. –Food insecurity is defined as an entire household lacking consistent access to nutritious food in order to live a healthy life.

“Food insecurity is a reality for hundreds of families across Broome County,” Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo remarked in a press conference held yesterday, May 12, to announce new funding for the Food Bank of the Southern Tier’s School Food Centers’ planned expansion throughout Broome County school districts. Assemblywoman Lupardo secured a legislative award of $75,000.00, and Broome County contributed $125,000.00.

Joining Assemblywoman Lupardo were Broome County Executive Jason Garnar and Food Bank of the Southern Tier President & CEO Natasha Thompson, along with East Learning Center Principal Chuck Wheeler and Ben Franklin Elementary Principal Kyle Skinner. All gathered at Binghamton’s East Learning Center, the Food Bank’s flagship example of a School Food Center, and with the new funding, all parties are working toward the creation of at least one School Food Center within each Broome County school district.

The Food Bank’s School Food Center program provides no-cost grocery items to students and their families while creating community around food. It can be set up much like a grocery store, offering a wide variety of food options, including dairy items and fresh produce, depending on each location. Schools can order the food directly from the Food Bank that best meets the needs of their students and families. Additionally, schools can adapt the program to best fit their unique needs while offering leadership and skill building opportunities to students who volunteer to assist with the program.

“We have seen the positive impact that School Food Centers have on students and their families,” stated Natasha Thompson, Food Bank President and CEO.

East Learning Center first opened in 2018. Since then, momentum has continued to support a shift away from sending a child home with food in their backpack and toward a healthier way to support the whole family. The Food Bank currently supports five School Food Centers across the Southern Tier, with each designed to be part of the school’s culture while helping to remove any stigma associated with hunger or food insecurity.

“By putting a pantry in every school district, the Food Bank will be able to connect directly with families in a more accessible way. Innovative initiatives like this are how we will end hunger in our community,” said County Executive Garner.

The Food Bank of the Southern Tier distributes food to people struggling with hunger through a network of 165 food pantries, meal programs, shelters and other hunger relief agencies in Broome, Chemung, Schuyler, Steuben, Tioga and Tompkins Counties. The Food Bank also directly serves people in need through the BackPack Program, Kids’ Farmers Markets and Mobile Food Pantry Program. Through advocacy, education and community partnerships, the Food Bank’s vision is to create a future without hunger for everyone in the Southern Tier. The Food Bank of the Southern Tier is a member of Feeding America, is a regional agency of Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Rochester, and was named the 2017 Feeding America Food Bank of the Year. Founded in 1982, the Food Bank is currently celebrating 40 years of service to the community.