CHATHAM—The free food distribution that was conducted at the Chatham Fairgrounds Tuesday morning, May 26 was the result of a partnership between the Northeast Regional Food Bank, Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Albany and the Chatham, Ghent and Valatie food pantries.
The Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York is based in Latham and serves 23 counties in New York from the Canadian border to New Jersey. The organization covers about a third of the New York land mass and provides food for approximately 1,000 local pantries.
Susan Lintner, who is the director of Community Impact for the Regional Food Bank was at the fairgrounds Tuesday to observe, help out and answer questions from the media.
“We’ve done about 40 of these since the end of March. Now that’s about 30 a month. This is the first one in Columbia County,” she said.
It is not just a matter of collecting food but also finding trucks to transport it and then volunteers to help distribute it.
“When we have a request we just say ‘yes’ and then figure out how to do it,” she said. “We’ve had help from the government and also a tremendous outpouring from the community.”
“The pantries in Chatham Valatie and Ghent said ‘we’re really struggling here’, so we decided to organize this large distribution,” said Ms. Lintner. “We reached out to the Catholic Charities to help with organization.”
Each of the food pantries was tasked with rounding up 10 volunteers. The Chatham Police Department, the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office and the New York State Police all assisted with traffic flow, and the Chatham Fairgrounds proved to be and excellent location for the event.
Sister Betsy Van Deusen who is Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Albany Director of Community Partnerships said that the actual food distribution part is like a vacation since all the work has been done during the two weeks prior. “This distribution is more anonymous for people who are not accustomed to using the local food pantries. We just ask them their names and to tell us how many people they are providing for.”
As she spoke, a van from the Columbia County Office for the Aging drove up to the distribution table. “Often we have churches and group homes come,” she said.
In addition to dried goods, canned foods and milk, the distribution included fresh fruit and vegetables. In all there were approximately 24 palettes of food.
The distribution started at 9:30 a.m. and in less that an hour, about 100 vehicles had gone through the line. “We will continue until about noon or until all the food is gone,” said Sister Van Deusen. Left-overs will go to the Salvation Army.
“We have to quit by noon because of the milk and other perishables,” she said. “It’s actually nicer to have something leftover because we don’t like to have someone drive up and then have to tell them that it’s all gone.”