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/ .

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!  

Giving Tuesday Now Recap with The Food Pantries of the Capital District

From the desk of Matt Shaughnessy, Development Director at The Food Pantries of the Capital District

Staff Quotes:

“Throughout this crisis, the majority of our local food pantries have remained open and many continue to face a significant rise in demand. We at The Food Pantries for the Capital District have expanded our capacity and increased the amount of food delivered across our four-county footprint by approximately 50% in response to community need.”

Natasha Pernicka, executive director of The Food Pantries for the Capital District 

“As Program Coordinator, I have been given the opportunity to manage our food assistance referral line.  Right now, I would say our Food Access Referral Line is the best resource for those that find themselves in need of help.  This program connects people with their nearest food pantry and basic needs resources.  Since the crisis, we have experienced a 900% increase in the volume of calls seeking food assistance compared to last year at this time.”

Here is a note we received from the relative of one of the community members we coordinated a delivery for: she was crying tears of joy when I called her, she said she’s trying to eat one meal and feels so uncertain about life.  My heart is so happy that she’ll have food and won’t suffer.”

– Dan Vaughan-Cherubin, program coordinator at The Food Pantries for the Capital District


“Thank you to The Food Pantries,” we called one of our clients to let them know that we would be coordinating the delivery of food tomorrow for her, she was so excited and we are thrilled that she’ll be able to start eating some nutritional food and hopefully be able to maintain her weight during this time and not get sick.  The client said, “God bless all of you for all the wonderful work that you do in our communities. I can’t even imagine us not having you people to lean on when we need to!”

Quotes from Our Members:

“Thanks to The Food Pantries for the Capital District, our pantry…has been restocked with 1,550 lbs. of food. We will be expanding our food pantry hours to meet the needs of our community.”

– YWCA-GCR’s Food Pantry

“We are appreciative to have The Food Pantries’ Food Express so we are able to get large quantities of food we need.”

– St. Clement Food Pantry

“Today we want to recognize the incredible work of The Food Pantries for the Capital District. We are proud to be part of this coalition and grateful for their valuable work. As we have seen demand increase on our food pantry- for some guests, it’s their FIRST TIME accessing a food pantry- The Food Pantries for the Capital District has stepped up the delivery frequency, making it possible for us to work with less staff and maintaining social boundaries while we work as an essential service. Thank you to Natasha and all her crew.”

– Unity House of Troy’s Food Pantry

For more information on how you can help The Food Pantries of the Capital District, visit here.

We are a network of more than 65 food pantries in Albany, Rensselaer, Saratoga, and Schenectady Counties, working together to feed the hungry.  Our mission is to address hunger in the Capital District through our member food pantries.  Our vision is a hunger-free Capital Region.  We support local food pantries by funding, purchasing, collecting, and delivering food.  We provide a forum for networking, coordinating services, educating, and training pantry staff and volunteers.  We provide direct relief to people in low-access areas of the Capital Region and connect them to their nearest food pantry and basic needs resources.  We are a voice for the local hungry.

#GivingTuesdayNow with The Food Pantries of the Capital District

You’re invited to join The Food Pantries of the Capital District next Tuesday, May 5th for #GivingTuesdayNow. Throughout the day, they will be sharing some of their most recent ‘mission moments’ of the #here2help campaign with you.

Your donation on this day will support local food pantries and the 65,000 people they serve. As you all know, there is no donation too small ($1 is equal to 6 pounds of food for local people in need).

We hope you will continue to make a #localimpact with us and join The Food Pantries and the entire Capital Region next Tuesday ❤️

The Food Pantries for the Capital District’s Response to COVID-19

From the desk of Matt Shaughnessy, Director of Development & Marketing at The Food Pantries of the Capital District

As essential services, local food pantries are open and anticipating a further increase in demand. The Food Pantries for the Capital District are #here2help!

How we help:

  1. Food funding allocations for more than 65 local food pantries
  2. Food delivery at no cost to local food pantries
  3. Our Food Access Referral Line will connect you to your nearest food pantry if you need help right now (518-458-1167 x108)

Given unprecedented times, #TheFoodPantries is working diligently to ensure that our local food pantries are prepared in the face of circumstances threatening our most vulnerable neighbors.

How to join us:

  • Cash contributions — rather than donating cans or dried goods — can more efficiently shore up food stocks.  To donate, you can text endhungerTFP to 41444.  Or, visit our website here: http://bit.ly/33renUx
  • We are accepting individuals and groups looking to support our work via volunteering. Our local food pantries are in danger of losing many of their at-risk volunteers and can use your help. To get involved contact us at 518-458-1167 x104 or fill out this volunteer application: http://bit.ly/2U3H6M5

Thank you for making a #localimpact and doing what you can to feed the hungry in this moment. We value our relationship with the Capital Region Chamber of Commerce and the Women’s Business Council.
#doingmoretogether #localimpact #thefoodpantries

Support The Food Pantries During COVID-19

From the desk of Natasha Pernicka, Executive Director of The Food Pantries of the Capital District.

Image result for food pantries of the capital district

As you know, today we should have been coming together to learn from past Women of Excellence awardees on perseverance. Instead, we are all faced with many unknowns. Given unprecedented times, The Food Pantries for the Capital District is working diligently to ensure that our local food pantries are prepared in the face of circumstances that are devastating to our most vulnerable community members.

Do you know someone who is in need of food/hygiene products/diapers/formula?

The Food Pantries is dedicated to keeping our Food Access Referral Line open to provide the most up-to-date resource information for local food pantries and food access (schools/pop-up food drops) programs for those seeking assistance. Call 518-458-1167 extension 108 for a referral.

Distributing millions of pounds of food and monetary resources annually, The Food Pantries is a critical lifeline to our network of more than 65 Capital Region food pantries. Service coordination and information sharing are key to our most vulnerable community members accessing food at this point. We are prioritizing our food delivery, service coordination, and food access referral line at this critical juncture.

We are fully committed to keeping our local food pantries stocked and providing the most up to date information about food access resources to those in need. Working together we can do more than anyone of us alone. In this uncertain time, we would be so grateful for the support of the WBC. And you can be certain that your support will make a difference right here, right now, in our capital region neighborhoods. You can make a gift online or text “endhungerTFP” to 41444

On behalf of our food pantries, the 65,000 people they serve, and those who for the first time may need to turn to food pantries for help – thank you for helping us feed the hungry during this crisis.

Support Your WBC Heroes Hunger Team

2020 is a milestone year for Capital Region CANstruction!  CANstruction is an annual exhibit and design competition/food and fund drive that connects talented architecture, engineering, and contracting (AEC) professionals who build colossal structures out of canned food items, all of which are then used to feed our neighbors struggling with hunger and food insecurity.  Help us celebrate the 10th year of Capital Region CANstruction by supporting your Women’s Business Council Hunger Heroes team. 

We appreciate all donations, but monetary donations make a larger impact.  Every dollar donated will count as 6 pounds of food for the competition.  You can see how the WBC team is performing in the regional competition by clicking on this link: http://www.thefoodpantries.org/hunger-heroes.html.  And, you can solicit support for your team by sharing this donation page: https://thefoodpantries.z2systems.com/np/clients/thefoodpantries/donation.jsp?campaign=61.  

A Message from The Epilepsy Foundation of NENY

From the Desk of Jeannine Garab, Executive Director, Epilepsy Foundation of Northeastern New York, Inc.

Dear Members of the Women’s Business Council,

On behalf of our Board of Directors and Staff, I extend my deepest appreciation to the Women’s Business Council of the Capital Region Chamber for selecting the Epilepsy Foundation of Northeastern New York as your 2019 Adopted Non-Profit.  I also extend my deepest gratitude to CapCom Federal Credit Union for your sponsorship of the Women’s Business Council and the Adopted Non-Profit program.  We have had such an amazing year working with all of you!   

We had several goals as we entered this partnership.  First, we wanted to educate members of the Women’s Business Council about epilepsy to bring awareness to this disorder which will affect 1 in 26 people in our lifetime.  Rarely, is a friend, family or business not affected by this often misunderstood disorder. 

Second, we wanted to put a face to epilepsy by introducing you to local women, professionals in our community, who are living with epilepsy themselves, or caring for a family member with epilepsy.  Many of you approached me as well to share your own personal connection to epilepsy. 

Our third goal was to teach everyone how to recognize a seizure and be able to provide very basic first aid for someone having a seizure.  We have seizure first aid posters available if you would like to post one at your place of employment.  While our year as the Adopted Non Profit is over, we can still come to your place of business and provide training on seizure recognition and first aid for your employees at no cost.  Just mention that you are a member of the Women’s Business Council.  

While we accomplished these three preliminary goals, we actually accomplished SO MUCH MORE.  We made so many new friendships and connections.  We are sad to see our year as the Adopted Non-Profit come to an end.  And yet, we are so thankful to all of you for all the money that has been raised, and all of the awareness that has been generated.  Thank you for purchasing raffle tickets at the events, and for your generous donations at Women of Excellence, Bold in Business, and the recent Holiday Party.  We are pleased to report that we raised a total of $11,957 throughout the year!

This money is being used to support our Care and Cure Initiative.  This initiative provides programs and services for people who are living with epilepsy today, and it also provides hope for tomorrow by enabling more research for both better treatments and eventually a cure.  Your donations have sent children with epilepsy to summer camp, supported our college scholarship program, and helped support many of our free programs and services in the community. 

If you like what you have learned about epilepsy and our organization over the past year, and would like to get more involved, please reach out to me at jgarab@epilepsyneny.org.  There are many ways that you can become involved in our organization, including joining our Board of Directors or volunteering on one of our special event committees.    

Also, don’t forget to mark your calendars for our 32nd Annual Confections in Chocolate gala which will be held on March 21st at Glen Sanders Mansion. Please reach out to me if you would like to attend or volunteer at this event. 

The Epilepsy Foundation could never have the impact that we do without the incredible support of the business community.  Thank you again for choosing us as your Adopted Non-Profit, and for making 2019 a special year for the Epilepsy Foundation of Northeastern New York. 


Jeannine S. Garab

Executive Director

Vote For the Epilepsy Foundation at This Year’s Capital Region Gives

Our 2019 Adopted Nonprofit, The Epilepsy Foundation of Northeastern New York needs your help! Please vote for them (one vote per day) starting on Thursday, November 14th, so they can win $10,000 in FREE advertising from the Times Union. Prizes like this are huge for non-profits as it helps spread their mission and help the families affected by epilepsy.

For more information, go to timesunion.com/capitalregiongives

2019 Epilepsy Family Conference

The Epilepsy Family Conference is a signature education activity unique to the Epilepsy Foundation of Northeastern NY.

The goal of this event is to offer information and education on epilepsy-related topics to those who are affected by epilepsy, as well as healthcare professionals. This conference includes topics relevant to both adult and pediatric epilepsy patients. For the first time, the conference will be broadcast live on Facebook! The conference will be taking place on Wednesday, November 13th at the Hearst Media Center (645 Albany Shaker Road, Albany NY 12211). Check-in begins at 11:00 and the program is from 11:30 am – 3:45 pm. Lunch will be served. Register for the conference by joining either in-person or on Facebook Live and view the agenda: http://bit.ly/EFNENYFamilyConf2019