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The Cayuga/Seneca Community Action Agency works closely with the emergency food provider networks in Cayuga and Seneca counties to engage the community in bringing awareness to the importance of hunger. The agency supports partner food pantries and soup kitchens throughout Cayuga and Seneca counties in various ways.

Through the Anti-Hunger Collaboration Initiative, CSCAA provides volunteer management training and helps create new fundraising and service-based volunteer opportunities in collaboration with emergency food providers. The agency also partners with various vendors to increase the availability of nutritious foods for food pantries and soup kitchens.

CSCAA’s Food Recovery Program through the state Hunger Prevention Nutrition Assistance Program provides partners throughout Cayuga and Seneca counties with recovered food from farmers and growers like Owens Orchards, retailers like Save-A-Lot grocery store, community-based organizations like the Venison Coalition Project, restaurants and other vendors. The agency collects extra food from these partners and disperses it to emergency food providers for redistribution to customers in need. CSCAA’s ServSafe certified staff are trained to handle recovered food items.

CSCAA has recovered and dispersed 59,241 pounds of food through its Food Recovery Program since Nov. 1, 2017. The agency was fortunate to partner with the Willard Drug Treatment Center’s Garden Project this year. Willard donated over 18,000 pounds of produce grown and harvested by parolees. This produce was distributed to Tyre Reformed Church Pantry, Seneca County House of Concern, Interlaken Reformed Church Pantry, Harmony Food Pantry, Ovid Federated Church Pantry, Moravia Hope Pantry, King Ferry Pantry, Western Cayuga County Union Springs Pantry, SS. Peter and John Soup Kitchen, Salvation Army Pantry and Soup Kitchen, St. Alphonsus Pantry, Calvary Food Pantry, Cato Pantry, Port Byron Pantry, Fair Haven Food Pantry and CSCAA’s Auburn and Waterloo pantries.

The nutritious, locally grown produce donated by Willard Drug Treatment Center provides high-risk individuals with fresh vegetables in volume that otherwise would be too expensive for pantries to access. Emergency food provider coordinators greatly appreciate the work and dedication that Willard puts into organizing, growing and harvesting this produce. They have been able to feed hundreds of people across Cayuga and Seneca counties. CSCAA hopes to continue its partnership with Willard next year; the agency is seeking seed donations of squash, tomato, seed potato, peppers, onions, broccoli, beans, carrots, beets, cucumbers, etc. for this purpose.

This year, CSCAA received 562 pounds of produce from private gardeners through its “Grow an Extra Row” Campaign that kicked off in the spring. The agency asked gardeners to plant and harvest extra produce to donate to their local food pantries and soup kitchens. If you have extra produce from your garden, please think about donating it to an emergency food provider — they will appreciate your efforts!

The Cayuga County Emergency Food Provider's Network organized its third annual Hunger Walk Oct. 13, 2018, at the Ward W. O’Hara Agricultural & Country Living Museum and Dr. Joseph F. Karpinski Sr. Educational Center, and raised $4,000. Proceeds will be distributed through the Food Bank of Central New York to nine partners that participated in organizing the event. The Food Provider's Network would like to thank everyone who supported and participated in this year’s Hunger Walk. Help support your local emergency food providers and save the date for next year’s walk: Saturday, Oct. 12, 2019.

CSCAA operates a volunteer-based mobile food delivery service to reach isolated rural residents. This referral-based program delivers nutritious foods to residents in need who are unable to access local food pantries. Volunteers are always needed to help make deliveries to isolated and/or homebound individuals and families throughout Cayuga and Seneca counties.

Food pantry coordinators are frequently asked what items are needed in their food pantries. If you would like to donate, here are some suggestions: canned vegetables, fruits, soups, stews, canned chicken and tuna, peanut butter, oatmeal, and 100-percent juice are always welcome. With the holidays approaching, you may consider donating a holiday meal including turkey, stuffing, squash, potatoes, gravy, green beans and pies. Many of the pantries throughout Cayuga and Seneca counties offer personal care items as well as food. Check with your area provider to learn more about their specific needs.

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Chris Ehlers is the community services director at the Cayuga/Seneca Community Action Agency. She can be reached at (315) 255-1703 ext. 109 or cehlers@cscaa.com.

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