October 26, 2021

Boxes of food available for free Thursday

The Food Bank of Central New York is offering free boxes of food in Cortland from 4 to 5:30 p.m. Thursday, or until it runs out of boxes.

The event will take place at 186 Homer Ave., in the parking lot next to the Dollar General.

To avoid bogging down traffic, volunteers ask that people do not arrive before 4 p.m. The boxes
are first-come, first-serve, and volunteers will not screen or require identification.

The food bank is partnering with the United Way of Cortland County and the Cortland YMCA to distribute about 500 boxes of food, with a variety of produce and dairy products.

“We have found that people are trying to make choices on whether they pay rent, buy their weekly groceries, or pay their utility bill. Some people have been laid off or are going without a paycheck for other reasons,” said Christella Yonta, executive director of United Way of Cortland County.

“These food boxes help to fill a gap for a short time. They’re not intended to replace food (purchases) entirely, but to maybe help them — money they would have spent on food could then be spent on something else.”

Through the Nourish New York program, surplus agricultural products are rerouted from farms to food banks for distribution.

Thursday, each household can take two food boxes — one produce and one dairy. Families will take home potatoes, onions, apples, lettuce, tomatoes, fluid milk, cheese, sour cream and Greek yogurt.

“People that, prior to the pandemic, had never been a part of the emergency food network (and) never relied on our food services came to need them,” said Brian McManus, chief operations officer for the
Food Bank of CNY. “These well-publicized community events have very few barriers to distributing food, and they help people enter into relationships to get nutritious, high quality food during their time of need.”

The food bank is active in 11 counties in Central New York, and partners with organizations like the United Way to get surplus food to communities that need it.

“We at the (YMCA) are trying to find our place in Cortland County to help with hunger relief,” said Hannah Gibbons-Arthur, events and outreach coordinator for the Cortland YMCA. “We’re just trying to figure out what is the best, most efficient way we can help.”

Gibbons-Arthur said the Cortland YMCA keeps in contact with Yonta at the United Way, and offered its property at Homer Plaza to host the event and provide a larger parking lot. She said the YMCA is considering developing the property and installing cold storage for future food distribution events.

Still, in the meantime, people are hungry, McManus said. They can go to www.foodbankcny.org to find resources or call 315-437-1899 to get help.