When the coronavirus hit Westchester six months ago, Hastings officials knew that their neediest residents could face unprecedented food insecurity. Through the local charity Family-to-Family, the Village of Hastings put out a call for donations via a GoFundMe page launched to support the Hastings Food Pantry and pay for other ways for low-income families to buy groceries. Now, the Village is renewing that request.
The first wave of donations, beginning in March, raised almost $76,000 which went toward stocking the food pantry every 10 days, enabling it to serve about 60 families per week throughout the spring and summer. The funds also paid for weekly $50 Foodtown gift cards to help families whose children received free or reduced-price lunch at schools, allowing those families to buy additional groceries.
The donations also paid for $25 Foodtown gift cards for patrons of the food pantry, funded a Meals on Wheels program for seniors, and provided breakfast boxes for seniors. Donations even paid for pizza dinners for local families.
“That $76,000 is about to be depleted by the end of September,” Pam Koner, executive director of Family-to-Family, said on Sept. 11.
With no end to the pandemic in sight, the Village is again reaching out to residents. Koner established a new Hastings-specific Covid-19 fund last week. To donate, visit family-to-family.org/covid-19-emergency-food-fund/.
“We’re trying to come up with a committee that will try to sustain the pantry into the future, because we can’t keep fundraising this way forever,” Koner said.
Family-to-Family also continues to run its “sponsor a family” program, which has matched up area donor families with needy families via monthly food gift card donations. This program has about 70 ongoing donor families.
For the pandemic-related campaign Family-to-Family started in March, “It was generally all [Hastings] village participation,” Koner explained. “We had people we had not seen before as donors, and some families who had donated before. The average donation was between $50 and $75, a couple of $1,000, and a couple of $500. We started out with the initial goal of $25,000, and I upped it to $50,000. We reached that in a couple of days. In a month we had $75,000. It blew us away.”
Foodtown supplemented the village’s efforts. “They made donations of extra gift cards to us,” Koner explained. “They should be hailed. I commend them for their amazing support of the village. They were running over and dropping off gift cards, and they were dropping off food.”
“I want people to understand that the Village has its own food pantry,” Mayor Niki Armacost said on Sept. 11. In most other localities, food pantries are run by nonprofit organizations. “Other than Family-to-Family donations, the other ways our food pantry gets contributions are through the farmers’ market, through the CSA [community-supported agriculture], and people drop off goods at the Foodtown,” Armacost explained.
Under pandemic protocols, the Hastings Farmers’ Market, long committed to community outreach, has had to go virtual with its monthly “Gleaning Day.” In the past, market shoppers hand-picked fresh produce to drop into a “gleanings” receptacle for delivery to the food pantry. Now, with contactless shopping, the farmers’ market is soliciting monetary donations from its customers instead, via its blog and its website.
“We have been a constant in providing donations for the food pantry and we’re happy to step it up this year,” market manager Pascale Le Draoulec said on Sept. 15. Le Draoulec noted that the market had raised $1,300 in donations so far. “We’re very pleased with how generous the customers have been.”
The market uses the funds to buy greens and proteins for the pantry. In addition, the market itself continues to purchase 24 dozen eggs and 20 pounds of apples each week for the pantry, something it has done for years.
Elisa Zazzera, who manages Hastings’ CSA, said its Stoneledge Farm in Greene County donates one farm share for every 10 families that purchase a share. Two to three of those shares each week go to the Hastings Food Pantry, while five to six shares each week are donated to San Andres Episcopal Church in Yonkers.
“This is totally free,” Zazzera noted. “In the beginning of the year it was a lot of lettuces, and as the season has moved on, we’re into eggplant, zucchini, and squash.”
Each share has seven to 10 different items in it every week, depending on what’s in season in the Hudson Valley. This year, the Hastings Food Pantry will continue to receive the free produce until the growing season ends in mid-November.