OVERVIEW

Our Goal: Healthy Food ACCESS for ALL

The Schenectady Foundation awarded $450,000 in new grant funding to six non-profit organizations that will increase access to healthy food and/or build capacity and sustainability within our current food system.

“These innovative projects will improve access to healthy, nutritious and culturally appropriate foods in new ways that go beyond picking up free food at a mass distribution site,” said Robert Carreau, executive director of The Foundation, which originally had set aside a $300,000 investment but based on the proposals forwarded by the six winning agencies decided to increase the investment to impact the level of food insecurity in Schenectady County homes. They are:

$184,000 to The Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York to improve access to food in four underserved areas: Princetown/Rotterdam Junction, Scotia/Glenville, Schenectady’s Stockade/Northside and the city’s Mont Pleasant Neighborhood to hire liaisons from each underserved area to develop food programs that best suit the needs of the families who live there.

$100,600 to Schenectady Community Ministries to partner with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Schenectady County, the Schenectady City School District and the Schenectady ARC to work directly with lower-income families.  As part of a broad effort to learn how best to get quality food into Schenectady homes, this partnership will recruit 30 families to give feedback on what kind of food they want and need. The partnership will also host two public food summits, one for sharing the project data and considering new strategies for healthy food access.  

$75,000 to Messiah Lutheran Church and their Bread of Life Food Pantry, in Rotterdam move the pantry to a larger, renovated space in the former Trinity Church on Curry Road. Putting the pantry on a bus line, with modern accessibility features, and healthier/culturally-relevant food options will improve residents’ abilities to be served in the ways that are best for them. This project will serve as the starting point for an overall effort to listen to and more effectively serve the greater Rotterdam community.

$50,000 to The Food Pantries for the Capital District to continue to operate its successful Food Access Referral Line Program that makes more than 150 grocery deliveries each month to vulnerable Schenectady County residents.

$20,000 to Capital Roots to establish a Capital Region Food Policy Council to strengthen each sector of the local food system, fostering greater collaboration between farmers, processors, distributors and consumers with the goal of developing more efficient and practical solutions to the problem of food insecurity.

$20,000 to the Schenectady Greenmarket to establish a food box program, which will allow the Greenmarket to purchase community supported agriculture shares from local farmers at full price and then sell these shares to low-income customers at reduced rates. This approach recognizes that providing fresh healthy produce must be sustainable for the farmers as well as the customers.

These Healthy Food Access for All awards are the first stage of a multi-year commitment by the Foundation to ensure that Schenectady families will be food-secure, meaning that they will always be able to access sufficient amounts of healthy food to meet their dietary needs.

Kristi Milligan, director of grants and community programs for The Schenectady Foundation, noted these new grants include consumers in planning and evaluation. “This approach is embedded in our first round of healthy food grants, and it is essential if we are truly going to understand the root causes of food insecurity and address them effectively,” Milligan said. 

Please contact Kristi Miller at (518) 393-9500 or KMiller@schenectadyfoundation.org with questions.

WHY IT MATTERS

More than a year after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, The Schenectady Foundation is still standing at the forefront of food issues in the County, working to understand what it means to truly address food insecurity, and how to engage the people and organizations within the food system to improve the quality of life for community members.

Food insecurity is not a new issue, and back in 2007, New York State developed a Food Policy Council, setting forth the following goals for residents across the State:

  • Maximize participation in, and support for, food and nutrition assistance programs;
  • Strengthen the connection between local food products and consumers;
  • Support safe, efficient, and profitable agricultural food production and retail food infrastructure;
  • Foster a culture of healthy and local eating for all New York State residents.

In 2017, Schenectady County Public Health Services led the development of the Schenectady County Healthy & Equitable Food Action Plan. The plan suggested four main goals in an effort to address food insecurity and its root causes in the County:

  • Goal #1: Build community-wide support for healthier food
  • Goal #2: Increase accessibility and affordability of healthier food
  • Goal #3: Engage all members of our diverse community in collaborating to support healthier eating
  • Goal #4: Ensure community ownership of a sustainable, healthier food system

Additionally, Capital Roots recently released their comprehensive Greater Capital Region Food System Assessment with the mission to “build equity and economic resilience in the Greater Capital Region Foodshed, specifically for regional producers and low-income consumers.”

The two overarching recommendations of the assessment are:

  • Equity: Build community food security by ensuring healthy food access at retail outlets for all residents,” and
  • Economic resilience: “Grow the local food economy by building capacity in wholesale market channels in the region to purchase more local food.”

Utilizing these documented resources, as well as the expertise of local leaders and organizations, we begin a multi-year process to improve our local food systems, and ensure that the residents of Schenectady County have reliable access to healthy food.

The pandemic taught us that, particularly in crisis, we are well served to develop innovative ways to ensure that people have access to healthy food. We had no choice but to think in different ways, and to work together better than ever before. We learned that reaching a point where all our citizens are food-secure is many levels deep, requiring that we invest ourselves in understanding the dynamics of this multi-faceted issue.

We understand that, even with collaborative and concerted efforts, we will not be able to “solve” food insecurity in the short term. We are interested in hearing from strong partners with innovative, proven and evidence-based ideas, able to help us move the needle on what has become a complex and intractable issue.

HOW YOU CAN HELP

Consider the following documents and the issues they raise on the systemic changes needed. The more we know about food insecurity, the more we may be able to help advocate for change. 

DONATE

Your donation to this specific Fund will make all the difference to food insecure families, and 100% of every donation is distributed to programs in Schenectady County.

Donate Now »