County to spend $250M in hopes of closing the ‘meal gap’

— Map from USDA

For 2020 to 2022, New York, like most states, is colored gray, meaning its percentage of food-insecure households (11.3 percent) is close to the national average of 11.2 percent. The states colored green have the least food insecurity — below the national average — while the states colored blue have the most food insecurity, above the national average. Arkansas is the highest at 16.6 percent. New Hampshire is the lowest at 6.2 percent.

ALBANY COUNTY —  One in 10 people in Albany County is considered food insecure while one in seven children is going to school hungry, according to a release from the county executive’s office.

“There are people in every community in Albany County that face food insecurity, from the Hilltowns to the suburbs to the cities,” said the release.

Consequently on Monday, County Executive Daniel McCoy and county legislator Wanda Williingham announced that $250,000 from the county’s fiscal year 2024 budget will go to two organizations:

— $175,000 will be given to the Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York and its community partners in the county: 40 food pantries and 16 soup kitchens; and

— $75,000 will be given to the United Way of the Greater Capital Region and to work with other organizations and programs dedicated to fighting hunger.

Food-secure households, according to the United States Department of Agriculture, which have access, at all times, to enough food for an active, healthy life for all household members, made up 87.2 percent (115.8 million) of U.S. households throughout 2022, the latest year for which statistics are available.

Food-insecure households, which are uncertain of having, or unable to acquire, at some time during the year, enough food to meet the needs of all their members because they had insufficient money or other resources for food, made up 12.8 percent (17.0 million) of U.S. households at some time during 2022. Food-insecure households include those with low food security and very low food security.

Albany County’s numbers for food insecurity are roughly in line with state and national averages. New York state, for 2020 to 2022, had 11.3 percent of its households food insecure compared to a national average of 11.2 percent, according to the USDA.

Seventeen states are below the national average with New Hampshire having the least food insecurity at 6.2 percent of households. Six states are above the national average with Arkansas having the most food-insecure households at 16.6 percent.

Trends tracked by the USDA show that households with college-educated members are the most food secure and those without high school educations are the least food secure.

In 2023, the Regional Food Bank provided 3.7 million meals to people in Albany County, but there are 1.4 million more meals still needed, the release said, adding that the new funding would provide an additional 400,000 meals.

Peter Gannon, President and CEO of United Way of the Greater Capital Region, praised the funding, saying it is needed “as Albany County residents grapple with the combination of rising costs, the end of pandemic-era benefits, and various efforts to reduce nutrition benefits programs.”

“Demand in Albany County for help has gone up 30 percent since last year and we need to invest in programs that will make a difference,” said McCoy in the release. “Strong partnerships will help reduce the meal gap this year from 26 percent to 18 percent by providing 464,167 more meals. This is only the beginning.”

“Each year, the Regional Food Bank collects and distributes enough food to provide 3.7 million meals to neighbors in need in Albany County,” said Tom Nardacci, chief executive officer of the food bank, in the release. “And while we are proud of this effort and all that it takes to provide this level of service, far too many people in Albany County are hungry and urgently need our help.”

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