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Feeding the Hungry

Feeding the Hungry

Living in Westchester, one of the wealthiest counties in the nation, many people forget that there is poverty right in our backyard. More than 80,000 Westchester residents live at or below the federal poverty line, and some 200,000 are at risk of hunger. Many of these are children.

According to the Food Bank for Westchester, the nonprofit leader of the county’s emergency food distribution network, the Food Bank program highlights of 2010 to 2011 include the distribution of some 7,117,737 pounds of food, which provided 5,475,182 meals to hungry Westchester residents.

There is no doubt that hunger is a growing problem right here in our county. As the country tries to recoup from the latest economic challenge, more and more families are finding that making ends meet is a struggle. The Westchester Food Bank, area soup kitchens and local food pantries are working diligently to help. Your help is desperately needed. There are many ways you and your family can contribute. Donate food, or your time, to one of these feeding institutions. It doesn’t take much to make a difference. Some people in our community are so compelled by this issue they have taken the lead by developing programs that are helping to feed those need. Their stories are an inspiration.

A Helping Hand

Thanks to the establishment of not-for-profit food rescue organization, County Harvest, more than 120,000 pounds of food have been collected and distributed to local soup kitchens, food pantries and homeless shelters. County Harvest began when founder and President, Missy Palmisciano, served meals at her daughter’s school lunch program discovering that much of the uneaten food was being discarded. “One day I noticed how much cooked pasta was left over and I thought it would be great if it could be delivered to hungry people in our area,” Palmisciano says. The organization has been gaining momentum ever since.

In the past few years, City Harvest has worked with Shenorock Shore Club of Rye, Renaissance Bagel Café of Pelham, Trader Joe’s of Larchmont, DeCicco’s Marketplace of Ardsley, and numerous other country clubs, restaurants and markets. While the list of County Harvest’s business partners continues to grow, donations from individuals are equally important. “No good food should go to waste,” Palmisciano says.

Donating Is Easy

Planning a party? Making a difference to the needy people of Westchester can be an easy part of your party process. Chris Schwartz, director of development at the Grace Church Community Center, is thrilled by the ease of the transaction. “It’s totally seamless because County Harvest does it all on their own,” Schwartz says. To arrange a donation, simply have your caterer call or email County Harvest with the time, date and location of the event, and one of 72 volunteers will pick up leftovers from the site. When improving the lives of families in need is as easy as a quick call, it would be a shame not to pick up the phone.

But what if someone gets sick after eating your food? Are you held responsible? Fortunately, the answer is no. The Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act, signed by Clinton in 1996, protects donors from criminal liability, as the intention of helping the needy is “in good faith.” As long as your meals meet the basic requirements provided by food rescue services, there is no need to worry about any risks. Food rescue organizations accept prepared foods not yet served on a buffet table that are kept at 40 degrees Fahrenheit, as well as perishables still in their original packaging and produce without decay. It is likely that your caterer or venue will take care of the logistics, so you probably won’t even have to worry. Do note that County Harvest cannot accept food from an individual’s home. Food must have been prepared and served by a food professional who knows and follows food safety rules.

Making A Difference

When donations of any size are combined with the charitable power of County Harvest, the results are boundless. “Receiving donations makes such a difference,” Schwartz says. “We once got apples, and everyone was amazed by how sweet they were. They really appreciated that.” Phara Tignard of WestHELP Mt. Vernon, who works with low- to no-income families every day, has witnessed the positive effects of County Harvest and its partners. “When we have this organization coming into play, it makes a huge difference,” Tignard says. “It’s remarkable what Missy and County Harvest do.”

Go Girls Go!

Last summer members of Chappaqua Senior Girl Scout Troop 2747, Jennifer Hutchens, Julie Joseph, Glynnis Porter, Kate Rosenberg and Aileen Walker conducted a project they named Sow What? Suzi Novak, an expert gardening consultant and board member of InterGenerate, a nonprofit initiative for environmental and social sustainability in Northern Westchester, which creates the opportunity for Westchester residents to grow their own food, worked with these Horace Greeley High School students to reach their goal of helping to feed the community.

 Troop leaders Dale Joseph and Cay White assisted as the girls took over four raised beds in the Chappaqua Community Garden, and by learning important gardening skills they managed to raise and donate more than 100 pounds of fresh produce to the Food Bank of Westchester. In the process the girls became better educated about childhood hunger and were surprised to find out that hunger affects not only children in third world countries, but youngsters right in their community.

 Inspired by the need to do more, the troop members applied and won a $500 grant from the Sodexo Foundation’s Youth Service American program. The national award allows the girls to conduct a program they developed called, Growing Beans, Raising Awareness  and Weeding Out Childhood Hunger. They will work to publicize the issue of childhood hunger, coordinate perishable food drives and improve their garden for the coming year. They also plan

to offer other troops the opportunity to become involved in community gardening projects.

Get Involved

With your kind donation, someone can enjoy a meal that they weren’t certain they’d have. What a wonderful good deed it would be to make a donation to one of the area food organizations and share the joy of a good meal with those in need. Involve your children in the process and teach them a lesson about the value of giving back.

Sissy Allman and Kathy Berkowitz are Westchester-based writers. Jean Sheff is editor of Westchester Family.


County Harvest

Missy Palmisciano
P.O. Box 8367, Pelham, NY 10803
[email protected]

Food Bank for Westchester

358 Saw Mill River Road, Millwood, NY 10546

[email protected]


P.O. Box 518, Katonah, NY 10536
[email protected]

Westchester Coalition for the Hungry and Homeless, Inc.

A corporation composed of autonomous food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters, service organizations and individuals interested in alleviating hunger and homelessness in the Westchester region.