AUBURN | The issue of hunger in the Cayuga County community, which sometimes goes unnoticed according to food pantry volunteers, was at center stage Thursday at the Auburn City Council meeting.

The co-president of the TomatoFest, Janice Sanders, handed out donations in the form of checks from this year's TomatoFest to representatives from several local food pantries, which receive the proceeds from TomatoFest each year.

The challenge this year was the fact that the two-day fest was limited to a one-day fest after the event was canceled on a Saturday because of a bad storm, Sanders said.

But the loss of one day did not impact the proceeds as much as it could have, Sanders said, and the end result in donations was close to last year's amount, despite the storm.

"I just can't speak highly enough for the community, the volunteers and our sponsors," she said.

Sanders would not comment on how much money was raised.

Prompted by questions from the city councilors, Sanders talked about how the needs of the hungry sometimes go unnoticed.

"The economy, the change in the job situation ... there's just so much that isn't publicized," she said.

Nancy Sheffield, director of the Calvary Food Pantry, said that Auburn is a generous community and when residents know there is a need, they help.

Sheffield said there is an increasing need for food pantry resources in the community.

"Every week, we're seeing new families," she said. "We have people come in there and they're just desperate."

Major Karen Smullen, a corps officer with The Salvation Army, said she is seeing more families come into her food pantry, where as in the past, it was usually single people coming to get a meal.

Sanders said there seems to be no end to the need for food in the Cayuga County community.

"Our efforts are very small ... compared to what the need is," she said. "This hunger issue is really scary. It's increasing."

Staff writer Kelly Voll can be reached at 282-2239 or kelly.voll@lee.net. Follow her on Twitter at CitizenVoll.

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