Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Neighborhood gets to the heart of hunger

 By Jonathan Schultz

     In this unprecedented time, more people than ever are facing food insecurity right here on the West Side and the surrounding areas. Community members and non-profit organizations have donated time, money and resources to fight hunger. Food insecurity is when a person doesn’t know where their next meal will come from.

            One community member has taken her own approach to help neighbors who might need extra food and other items. Megan Gerrity, a resident of Putnam Avenue, realized the need for food, clothing items, personal hygiene products and pet food. Gerrity has set up a table in her front lawn where anyone walking by can take items they need, no questions asked.

Megan Gerrity's table on Putnam Ave.

       “As it started getting colder, I realized there might be a different need. So I just started putting out food and clothing items just for people to take, share, donate or do whatever they want with,” Gerrity said. 

     She tries to leave the table outside as much as possible. It is usually there overnight as well so when people are walking home from work or out and about, they can still get these items.

            Easy things to grab like soups, canned meats, hats, gloves, socks, tissues, soap, deodorant and underwear are just some of the things available. Instant soup and juice are the most popular items people take.

            She gets occasional donations; Elmwood Pet Supplies has been a big contributor, donating pet food. Gerrity does take donations. She doesn’t have a website but one can donate using Venmo. Her Venmo tag is @megangerrity23

            “Heavy winds, the snow and the ice make it very difficult. Stuff will blow down the street and I don’t want to create problems with the neighbors. One night we had a heavy freeze and everything on the table was frozen the next day,” Gerrity said.

            FeedMore Western New York, a hunger relief non-profit organization, can attest to the greater demand for food brought on by the pandemic.

            The food insecurity rate for in Erie, Chautauqua, Cattaraugus and Niagara has increased by 41% due to the pandemic, One in six individuals in Western New York may be struggling with hunger as a cause of COVID-19, Catherine Shick, FeedMore communication director, said.  

             The organization has distributed enough food in 2020 to provide almost 16 million meals. That is about 4 million more meals than was done in the year before, when COVID-19 was not around.

             FeedMore partners with six food pantries, a soup kitchen, a youth snack program, two shelters, three backpack programs, and a group home on the West Side alone.

FeedMore’s pantry locator can help locate the location of assistance.

            The First Presbyterian Church of Buffalo’s Lyon Food Pantry, One Symphony Circle, has been serving the West Side community in one way or another for over 50 years.  Leaders there have seen an increase in demand for food items since the pandemic hit.

            “Prior to COVID we were doing 20 bags a week and we bumped it up to 30 bags now,” Christina Banas, the church’s business manager said.

            The pantry is open at 12:30 p.m. on Tuesdays. Volunteers ask no questions of the people that come in. No I.D. or government assistance is needed.

            “Every penny or canned good that comes in is donated. We do the shopping at Wegman’s and volunteers from church make the food bags,” Banas said.

            The church is always looking for donations whether it’s non-perishable food items or a monetary donation.