5 Things You May Not Know About a Food Pantry

From the desk of Karen Lombardo, Owner Put Another Way

Food Pantries Amidst the Pandemic | WFUV

I have been honored to write the 5 things blog series for the Women’s Business Council for the past year or so. I have compiled 5 things lists from interesting interview questions to 5 ways to clean your office. Today, I would like to introduce you to our 5 things guest blogger, Natasha Pernicka, Executive Director of The Food Pantries for the Capital District.

The Food Pantries for the Capital District believes we can do more together than any one of us can alone and function as a coalition of more than 65 food pantries in Albany, Rensselaer, Saratoga, and Schenectady Counties. The Food Pantries’ vision is to end hunger in the Capital Region. Last year, their member pantries provided more than 65,000 people with enough food for over 3.9 million meals. Yet with more than 89,000 people (including 27,000 children) affected by food insecurity in Albany, Rensselaer, Saratoga, and Schenectady Counties, there is more work to be done.

We thought we would take this opportunity to shed some light and share 5 Things you did not know about a food pantry:

  1. Most pantries in The Food Pantries’ network have fresh produce available. Many also have meat, dairy, and eggs on hand.
  2. There are no income eligibility requirements for visiting a pantry. Many use pantries on a short-term basis in or in a crisis. Pantry use is based on expressed need.
  3. Food pantries and food banks are not the same. A food bank serves as a warehouse where food donations are sorted, stored, and distributed to front-line organizations. Food pantries are front-line organizations that distribute food directly to individuals and families in need. Food pantries order much of the food they need from food banks.
  4. Although food drives are essential, most pantries receive much of the food they distribute from their local food bank. Most food banks use a cost-share model. Much of the food available to pantries is obtained at $.16 per pound cost-share.
  5. Charitable contributions largely support food pantries. There is limited federal and state funding available. Donations from local individuals and companies are vital to funding food pantry programs.

To learn more about the Food Pantries and reach out to donate time or donations, visit the website at https://www.thefoodpantries.org/ .

Member Spotlight: Catherine Hover, Founder of Palette Cafe

To further promote women, minorities, and veterans who are leading the way in our community, we are featuring Chamber member businesses that fall under these categories.

This week, meet Catherine Hover, Founder of Palette Cafe. Palette Cafe is “more than a cafe. It’s a place that celebrates culture, shared ideas, and connections. Palette Cafe is a space where everyone in the community is welcome. It’s a hospitable place to grab a great cup of coffee, a quick lunch, or a cocktail. We aim to inspire everyone who joins us through our well-designed space and local artist gallery wall. It’s a comfortable place to get work done, escape from the challenges of home, or connect and meet with a group of friends.”

When you have 30 minutes of free time, how do you pass the time?

“When I have 30 minutes of free time, I love to call my girlfriends or mom back home in New Orleans and catch up on life, it’s so therapeutic. I also like to catch up on my reading. I’m currently reading The Upside of Being Down by Jen Gotch and I am getting some really good stuff from it!”

What do you love most about what you do?

“I love meeting new people who have different experiences under their belt. Hearing stories and helping business owners get out of their own way to ultimately reach their business and life goals and become the best version of themselves is what I love to see. That’s what Palette is about, after all, leveling up in life and in career!”

What would you most like to tell yourself at age 13?

“I would tell myself that other people’s opinions of you are none of your business. Stay the course and keep doing what you feel is right and fun to do!”

What have you gained from being a member of the Women’s Business Council?

“I have learned so much about other women in business in the area. At Palette, we’re all about coming together and building a community of strong women leaders. The Women’s Business Council has opened my eyes to so many other kickass women in the region who I would love to get to know more.”

What is the best advice you have ever received?

“The best advice I have ever received, and something I often tell others, is to invest in yourself before you ever pour your time and energy into someone or something else. You are always your best work and should be valued and held as the highest priority in your life. Only then can you be of service to anyone else.”

Member Spotlight: Alex Jarvis, Co-Owner/Founder of Goldilocks Promos

Meet Alex Jarvis, Co-Owner/Founder of Goldilocks Promos.

Goldilocks Promos - Promotional Products, Awards, Engraving, and ...

To further promote women, minorities, and veterans who are leading the way in our community, we are featuring Chamber member businesses that fall under these categories.

When you have 30 minutes of free time, how do you pass the time?

“I’ll tell you what it should be: exercising. But usually, it’s more like 1. Eating 2. Reading Game of Thrones (so much better than the show, like most books are) 3. Watching mindless TV (such as anything on Bravo) 4. Browsing Instagram. I’m usually not one for social media but I’ve had so much fun with it with Goldilocks. We get to see what’s going on with every local business and we find so much inspiration from many talented people. We love posting pop culture references, engraving on food, and featuring our clients and the ways we have helped them.”

What do you love most about what you do?

“I get to be creative every day. Our job is making it fun and easy to order branded products while also making our clients look good. So what we do is never boring or stuffy. We love taking our client’s brands and running with them. We are also obsessed with playing with our laser engraver. It has so many applications and we love making custom and unique creations. Thinking of new things to engrave, personalize, or make from scratch is extremely fun.”

What would you most like to tell yourself at age 13?

“Learn how to take criticism now and have fun before adulthood starts because the real world hits you fast. Work really hard, learn as much as you can from people and listen to everyone. Also, you should really think more about those student loans for college before you take them, especially majoring in an art degree.”

What is the best advice you have ever received?

“Never be afraid to reach out to people or use past connections. It’s amazing how people I haven’t seen in years have been so supportive of me starting my own business. Every connection you have made professionally will be of use to you in your new venture. Also, trust your gut and don’t be afraid to go outside your comfort zone.”

The Food Pantries for the Capital District staying on as Adopted Nonprofit for 2021

The Women’s Business Council is pleased to announce that The Food Pantries for the Capital District will stay on as the Adopted Nonprofit for all of 2021.

“On behalf of our more than 65 food pantries and the 65,000 people they serve, thank you to the Women’s Business Council for supporting critical efforts to make sure people have food across the Capital Region.  Now, more than ever, coordinated food assistance efforts are helping people impacted by the pandemic and economic distress.  Together we can do more than anyone of us alone.  It is an honor to continue our partnership through 2021.  #localimpact #endhunger #strongertogether”

– Natasha Pernicka, Executive Director, The Food Pantries of the Capital District

The Capital Region Chamber is thrilled the Women’s Business Council is continuing to partner with The Food Pantries for the Capital District through the end of 2021 as their adopted nonprofit. We look forward to bringing more awareness and support to The Food Pantries for the Capital District through 2021!

– Marna Redding, Vice President Member Services, Capital Region Chamber

“It’s been a year of uncertainty for so many. I am so pleased to announce that the Women’s Business Council of the Capital Region Chamber is proud to have The Food Pantries for the Capital District as our 2021 adopted nonprofit. Now, more than ever, hunger crisis in America is at the highest to help those in need. Food Pantries for the Capital District help fill this need. The WBC is proud to support and help our nonprofit throughout the entire year. No one should ever go hungry!”

-Susan Zongrone, Chair of the Women’s Business Council

In a spirit of cooperation, The Food Pantries for the Capital District believes we can do more together than any one of us can alone. The Food Pantries is a coalition of more than 65 food pantries in Albany, Rensselaer, Saratoga, and Schenectady Counties. The Food Pantries’ vision is to end hunger in the Capital Region. Last year, their member pantries provided approximately 57,853 individuals with enough food for more than 3.2 million meals. Yet with more than 89,000 people (including 27,000 children) affected by food insecurity in Albany, Rensselaer, Saratoga, and Schenectady Counties, there is more work to be done.

To find ways to help this organization, please visit here.

5 Tips for a Nimble Online Business

From the desk of Anna Krusinski, owner of Willow & Birch Apothecary,

8 Steps to Building an Established Online Business

The pandemic has brought with it so many lessons. As a business owner, this is an eye-opening experience that has taught me the importance of being nimble and building flexibility into my business model.

No matter what type of business you’re in, you’ve probably already recognized the importance of having an online storefront. This has been especially crucial during the quarantine, and I’ll wager that having an online shop will continue to be a valuable tool for most businesses moving forward.

Here are a few ways to implement new online features to attract (and keep!) more loyal customers and clients. 

1. Create attractive shipping options. Many of us now do the bulk of our shopping online and most shoppers have come to expect free shipping. If you have a product business, consider offering free shipping, flat-rate shipping, or free local pick-up. Customers like having options, and they love saving money! 

2. Make it easy for shoppers to re-order. Create a subscription option with apps like ReCharge that enable shoppers to set up automatic re-orders of their favorite items or services. It’s an easy and effective way to build customer loyalty. It can also boost word-of-mouth as customers are more likely to become fans and will spread word to their friends and families.

3. Offer new ways to pay. In addition to standard credit card processing, platforms like Shopify make it seamless to accept payment from other providers like Amazon Pay, Apple Pay, Google Pay, and PayPal. Services like Klarna and Afterpay also offer shoppers the ability to pay in installments, over time.

4. Create loyalty bonuses. You’ve likely heard the rule of thumb that it costs five times more to attract a new customer than it does to retain an existing one. That’s why building customer loyalty is huge, especially for small businesses with limited marketing budgets. What are some ways you can delight your customers or clients to thank them for sticking around? This can come in the form of discounts, free gifts, or exclusive bonus material. Get creative!

5. Reward referrals. Chances are, you already have at least a few fans of your work. So why not encourage them to help you spread the word? Offer referral rewards to customers and clients who bring you new business. This can be done simply by adding a “How did you hear about us” section at check-out and sending a discount or a free gift to anyone who brings you a new customer.

These are just a few of the tips and tools I’ve implemented to help my business stay strong during this rough transition. What are some ways you’re learning to remain flexible during the pandemic and beyond?

Anna Krusinski is the owner of Willow & Birch Apothecary, a Victorian-inspired apothecary and perfumery in Bloomville, NY where she creates natural bath, beauty, and fragrances for old souls and modern romantics. She is also a professional editor and writer and has been published in Upstate Life Magazine, Enchanted Living Magazine, and more. Learn more about her work at http://editsbyanna.wordpress.com/.

One thing you haven’t done in a while but have started to do since COVID.

From the desk of Karen Lombardo, Owner Put Another Way

Benefits of Self-Reflection - Zilvold Coaching & Training

As the Capital Region enters Phase Two of the reopening plan, we look ahead to returning to our offices, our events, meetings, and social gatherings. The self-quarantine and isolation mandates coupled with social distancing have provided us with time on our hands…. sometimes time well spent.

During a recent WBC Engagement Committee meeting the topic of discussion turned to remote living and working. Social distancing and society’s pause has been a blessing and a curse all at the same time. As the discussion deepened, we all began to share things that we have begun to do that we haven’t done in years. Here are some of the things we learned about each other that morning:

Laurie: I wanted to share with you that I have started coloring again! I was given a very large box of crayons a couple of years ago along with some cool coloring books and they sat on my bookshelf. I took them out one night and found its great anxiety reliever! I loved coloring as a kid and realized I still love as an adult.

Kimmy: As the weather gets nicer and we are still staying home for the most part, I’m getting more and more into running. I like to go on different routes for each run so I can explore and see new things around town. It feels like a little adventure every time!

Leslie: “I started running for the first time in a decade to keep my mind in a good place and I walk two miles every day with my 18-year-old HS senior which I would not have done if we had not been at home. I think that time is precious, and I am thankful for it.” 

Emily: I have been going for bike rides and riding through state parks looking for turtles, frogs, and other types of wildlife, which I haven’t done in about 10 years!

Susan: I purchased a bike and helmet…so fun!  I have not been on a bike since I was a kid!

Kate: I’ve been a huge fan of walking/jogging and so far, I’ve been averaging 5 miles a day for the last 2.5 months. I mostly walk through my neighborhood, but sometimes I mix it up and go somewhere like The Crossings and Lake George. It’s nice to get the fresh air and sun after sitting at my home desk 9-5 plus it gives some normalcy back.

Marna: I have enjoyed bike rides with my family, amazing games of Uno, and cooking and preparing what feels like 1000+ meals! 😊

Joslyn: I would say for me, being home has taught me better self-care and allowed me to slow down. It’s oftentimes hard when burning the candle at both ends. Being home has allowed me to catch up on things and focus on myself for a while.

Karen: I cannot believe it, but I am actually enjoying Vinyasa Yoga and Barre. The classes are a wonderful compliment to my usual outdoor cardio walking and running.

Kathy: Since spending so much more time at home I have had the opportunity to uncover my sewing table and get creative! It’s been a long time since I took the time to work on sewing projects.  

We welcome you all to find something that makes your heart soar, your face reflects a full-on smile, and your body to just feel good. We look forward to being together again soon, in person, and sharing the wonderful things we have learned about ourselves and each other.

Meet Lydia Calabro of AmeriCorps Vista/The Food Pantries of the Capital District

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!  

Virtually Network with the Capital Region Chamber

Even though most of us are still working remotely and in-person events are being held off for the foreseeable future – it doesn’t mean you can’t meet other business professionals in our community!

The Capital Region Chamber is still hosting its next Network by 9 – virtually. Meet people who are interested in meeting you and growing their business relationships in the Capital Region! Make new connections and expand your network of contacts in a fast, fun environment. Develop potential leads and build business relationships before the workday begins in a structured, fun environment. Who knows? You might have a new client before 9 a.m. Expand your network!

The next meeting takes place on Tuesday, June 2nd from 9:00am – 9:30am. June’s topic of discussion will be “3 Minute Moments.” “You will have the opportunity to share with a captive audience what your organization is thinking in regards to “opening back up for business. We know it’s not business as usual, but the Capital Region Chamber is here to help you make connections while social distancing.”

Registration is required! However, please limit your organization’s attendance to one session per month as spots are limited. You will receive a Zoom link the day before to join the event. Please contact Debbie Erck, Director, Signature Events at derck@capitalregionchamber.com with any questions.

Here are the other upcoming Network by 9 Events:

Thursday, June 4th from 9:00am – 9:30am

Tuesday, June 9th from 9:00am – 9:30am

Thursday, June 11th from 9:00am – 9:30am

Tuesday, June 16th from 9:00am – 9:30am

Tuesday, June 18th from 9:00am – 9:30am

Friday, June 26th from 9:00am – 9:30am

If you are unable to attend networking events first thing in the morning you are welcome to attend the Chamber’s Virtual Business After Hours on Wednesday, June 10th. You can register here.

5 Things? Not this time.

From the desk of Karen Lombardo, Owner Put Another Way

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Since June 11, 2018, I have had the privilege and honor to blog for the Capital Region Chamber’s Women’s Business Council. I relish the 5 things series and I spend time gathering my thoughts for the blog post over a steaming cup of coffee or a piece of cheese and fruit late in the afternoon.

The events of past few months and the quarantine brought on by the coronavirus have taken a toll on my creative inner soul. I hear from my friends and colleagues; it has had the same effect on them.

I am not listing “5 Things” this month.

I love to write, and I am so fortunate to be active in this community with the Capital Region Chamber, and the Women’s Business Council. These relationships have fed my mind and soul for 2 years. I have written the 5 Things series on:

  • 5 Reasons for Coffee
  • 5 Things You Can Do to Feel Productive
  • 5 Reasons to Have Dogs in the Workplace
  • 5 Great and Creative Interview Questions
  • 5 Things You Should Know About the Membertini

I could go on and on, but I am sure you get the gist of it. Now sitting on the precipice of quarantine and an un-pause, I am at a loss to write just 5 things. As business people and human beings, we all have more than 5 things we can say about any aspect of this pandemic.

Take a moment, for me, and list your own 5 Things.

I will say, writing can heal, so take a pen to paper.

Before we close our laptops and tablets tonight, perhaps take a moment to pen your own 5 Things list. The options are never ending. I would love to hear your 5 Things list, should you feel the urge to share, klombardo@putanotherway.com .

Take care and I absolutely cannot wait to see you all again soon!

PS If you need to chat or have someone to virtually share a cup of Joe, reach out to me. I am always up for that!