November 30, 2021

Those in need can find food banks via 211 hotline

‘They’re not alone’

Photo provided by the Salvation Army

Salvation Army volunteers and staff load a truck with groceries for hungry families. In two weeks, the organization helped more than 190 families. Typically, it helps about 100 families a month.

Out of work and confined at home, many greater Cortland area residents are facing tough financial decisions.

Some tenants are already running on empty after April rent payments came and went, and others are now in debt to landlords for a month’s rent they’ll have to pay back without knowing where next month’s rent is coming from. Worse, some residents are now wondering how or if they can afford their next trip to the grocery, and some local food programs have seen need quadruple in just the past few weeks.

But free food is available in almost every community, and you don’t have to look far to find it — although some sources have changed the way they work. All information about local food banks has been consolidated at 211, the public services hotline, and its website. Officials recommend that people call for a range of available public services, especially for people who lack internet access.

Homer resident Ruth Lewis, who helped county officials update some of the information, said she wanted “to make people aware that there are multiple sources of food – that you don’t have to go hungry.” Lewis, who calls herself “a self appointed nudger,” said more people than usual are going to need help, including people who aren’t used to asking for it and don’t know where to look for it.

“This county was struggling before,” she said. “I just feel this is important for this county – to keep everybody healthy and fed, and to know that they’re not alone, too.”

Some food banks have also changed how they operate, such as the Cortland Salvation Army, which is now delivering food to people’s homes, said Maj. Misty Coffelt.

Before the statewide lockdown, the Salvation Army at 138 Main Cortland would open its soup kitchen on Wednesdays. But not now; instead, packed lunches are left outside on a table every day from noon to 1 p.m.

“They can just grab one and leave,” Coffelt said.

Previously, people could stop by any day and get one month’s supply of groceries. Now, people can get supplies every two weeks delivered to their doors.

“Right now, because of everything that’s going on, we’ve set up this delivery system,” she said.

This new emergency food assistance program is a joint effort with the local United Way and Catholic Charities. In the first two weeks of the program’s existence, 192 area families, or 612 people, received 667 bags of food. Normally, the local Salvation Army serves about a 100 families per month.

The program will continue to operate until April 29, or as long as the state lockdown lasts, she said.