Lydia Calabro has been with The Food Pantries for the Capital District for a year through the AmeriCorps VISTA program. As a VISTA, she has worked on building the capacity of The Food Pantries filling the gap programs. There are more than 89,000 people (including 27,000 children) who are food insecure in Albany, Rensselaer, Saratoga, and Schenectady Counties. Lydia’s work in filling the gap programs includes working on developing a sustainability model for our Food Connect: Mobile Outreach program that distributes thousands of pounds of fresh produce to people in low-access areas of the Capital Region and provides them with information about the basic needs resources available to them. All services and products from our programs are offered at no cost to people.
In May, shortly after Lydia graduated from graduate school with a degree in Educational Psychology from The College of Saint Rose, Lydia was recognized as the 2020 VISTA Changemaker of the Year by the Center for Academic Community Engagement at Siena College for her work with The Food Pantries. Since mid-March, the priorities of Lydia’s role were adjusted to handle the volume of food assistance referrals we responded to, which has increased by 10 times the number compared to last year because of the economic distress caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
The majority of the calls received through the Food Access Referral Line program have never used a food pantry before so the increased volume speaks to the rising demand that many of our local food pantries experienced in the last seven weeks. Lydia’s work with the Food Access Referral Line program has been incredible throughout this challenging time. She responded to as many as 19 people on the referral line in a single day, and over 80 in the month of March.
As a network of more than 65 food pantries across four counties in New York’s Capital Region, The Food Pantries for the Capital District is working together to feed the hungry and support food pantries in our region. Lydia embodies that spirit and we are grateful for her time with us. Lydia is originally from Dutchess County and is currently pursuing fulltime employment opportunities in the Capital Region where she lives with her husband.
Please join us in wishing Lydia the best success in her future endeavors!