Food insecurity has increased in 2020 due to the pandemic.

Joe Sellepack, Executive Director of Broome County Council of Churches, said “This has been a challenging year… in a lot of different ways…”

2020 may have started off like any other, but due to COVID-19 food banks quickly found themselves with more mouths to feed, and less resources to do it.

The amount donated this year being 101 thousand pounds less than an average year.

The supply dropped but the demand rose substantially.

Sellepack continued “With COVID came unemployment so we ended up in our area having about 20 thousand people becoming more hunger insecure than what they were before… When you look at the amounts that goes from almost an 8 percent increase… So that’s somewhere around 21 percent of our population is hunger insecure in our county…”

Food banks aren’t the only ones addressing the hunger issue.

Schools are also facing difficulties and Broome-Tioga BOCES had given out 1.8 million meals from March to August, offering free meals to both students at home and those in their facilities.

Mark Bordeau, Senior Director of Food Services for Broome-Tioga BOCES “We immediately went into emergency feeding mode… We opened almost 60 sites throughout the community… And fed our families a breakfast and lunch for all of our kids, and then we went out and worked with community partners like the food bank, Community Foundation, CHOW, other organizations, and we were able to secure almost 2 million dollars in food to give to families… That was above and beyond the school meals that we did for our children…”

They ran into difficulties, between securing PPE, and contact tracing shutting down facilities, but the Southern Tier has also seen the best of people shine through.

So many people stepped up to donate time and money to make sure that no one was going hungry in 2020.

Sellepack described the Southern Tier’s generosity “It was kind of interesting to me that people were actually looking for things to do… So we ended up with a lot of volunteers who wanted to pack boxes and take food out to people that were home bound. The kindness and generosity of people has been really key this year, and without that we wouldn’t have been able to do what we did here…”

Bordeau added “We have an amazing community here in the Southern Tier… Everybody worked hard… They faced the challenge head on… They dealt with it… And I think we are going to be a stronger community coming out of this… Because of the leadership we have in the school district and our community…”

While 2020 is almost over, the changing of a calendar doesn’t relieve us of this years problems, but with all the hard work done over the last 12 months organizations are more prepared to face what’s coming next year…

Bordeau described what the current situation is “We are still having challenges with some food… Everyday seems like a different challenge with deliveries… Short food supplies is a challenge we still face on a daily basis… So we are being nimble and ready to react to what food is coming in…”

Sellepack showed optimism heading into the next 12 months “I am hopeful… That 2021 will be better… That’s just generally who I am as a person… So I’m gonna have to go with hope… So let’s say 2021 is going to be better than 2020”


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