Town eyes more help to feed hungry

ANCRAM—Signs that the pandemic is easing are all around, yet people are still hungry.

The Ancramdale Neighbors Helping Neighbors Association (ANHNA) has been around since 2003. It became a full-fledged not-for-profit 501(c)3 corporation in 2009. One of the group’s initiatives is a food distribution program for local residents who find themselves unable to provide enough nourishment for their families.

At the April 15 Ancram Town Board meeting, Councilman David Boice said he recently spoke with ANHNA Co-chair Jack Lindsey about how the Town Board might help the group continue to help Ancram residents.

Mr. Boice said he learned that if the ANHNA were municipally sponsored, many grants would become available to the local food pantry that the group runs at the Ancramdale Presbyterian Church Fellowship Hall.

Mr. Boice suggested that the town might purchase a delivery van and let the ANHNA use it to make the weekly trip to the Regional Food Pantry in Albany. The group currently uses a member’s pickup truck to transport the food by covering the truck bed with a tarp.

Councilwoman Madeleine Israel said perhaps someone could be persuaded to donate such a vehicle. Mr. Boice, Ms. Israel and Mr. Lindsey were appointed to a committee to come back to the board with a proposal.

Reached by phone this week, Mr. Lindsey told The Columbia Paper that every Monday a member of the ANHNA drives to Albany to pick up 2,500 pounds of food at the New York Regional Food Bank, of which the ANHNA is a member.

Two-thirds of the food is given to families in the Ancram area. The rest is given to two other local food pantries—in Hillsdale and Pine Plains.

The food bank has supplies of staples like canned goods but also has fresh produce, dairy and bread. This food is donated by supermarkets and is still good but may be damaged in appearance or past its sell-by-date. The ANHNA can purchase it for 16 cents/pound as a food bank member.

Being a member also makes internal food bank grants of $30,000 to $40,000/annually available to the ANHNA. The grant amount is applied to the group’s food purchase account.

‘I’d rather they have too much food, than too little.’

Jack Lindsey, co-chair

Ancramdale Neighbors Helping Neighbors Assn.

Other funding sources of about $6,000/annually include the Rheinstrom Hill Community Foundation and the Hudson River Bank and Trust Foundation that donate directly to the ANHNA’s food bank account.

When the ANHNA started it’s food distribution program, prior to the pandemic, it served four families. These families were not on public assistance–they were the working poor who needed some additional help because they were not making enough money to cover food costs, Mr. Lindsey said.

Initially, volunteers went out and shopped at Hannaford to supply them with needed groceries.

Now the ANHNA serves 16 Ancram families with an average of five members each, and belongs to the Regional Food Bank.

Mr. Lindsey described the families, some with two parents and children; some are single mothers with children and some are grandparents raising their grandchildren.

Since the pandemic hit, about one-third of the families have become food stamp recipients.

Prior to the pandemic the government allowed a family of four a maximum of $175/month for food. Since the pandemic began, that allotment increased to $475/month because so many were out of work. Once the government stops the allotment it is hoped those who need it will have been able to find work, he said.

Two or three families in the food distribution program who also receive food stamps have chosen not to come to the food pantry every week. Mr. Lindsey said he has told them that even if they receive food stamps, they should still visit the food pantry weekly.

“If we can free up some other income so they can keep the car going or get something for their kids, that’s what we want to do. I’d rather they have too much food, than too little,” Mr. Lindsey said.

Asked if he would put The Columbia Paper in touch with someone who receives food through the program for an interview, Mr. Lindsey said, “probably not.” He explained that for many of the families there is a “stigma” involved. ANHNA does everything it can to maintain the families’ privacy, including staggering the appointment times when people come to pick up their food. Helping them “feel more private has been one of the biggest hurdles,” he said.

The issue for the ANHNA is not just about a vehicle to transport the food, but the perpetuation of the operation itself, said Mr. Lindsey, noting he is the youngest member of the group at 65, everyone else is in their 70s.

By the time the food is loaded, unloaded and sorted it has been lifted four or five times. The people who are running the program only have “a couple more years left in us,” he said.

Most small food pantries throughout the area are run by a handful of volunteers—all getting too old, he said, and there is not a ready force of replacement folks, because they are all working and raising families.

Referring to $160,000 in pandemic relief funds coming to the town through the American Rescue Plan Act, Mr. Lindsey said it is hoped the town might not only provide some annual funding to offset costs of the trip to Albany, but might also consider supplying a town employee to make the trip.

Mr. Lindsey said he will make a presentation about the matter to the Town Board at its next meeting May 20 at 7 p.m. Anyone interested in volunteering to help the ANHNA should call Mr. Lindsey at 518-329-7306.

To contact Diane Valden email

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