Unequal access to healthy food is more than just a crisis in our current moment: It is a social emergency that requires rethinking how our community lives and works together.
The Kingston Emergency Food Collaborative (KEFC) was launched in response to the closure of public schools and the loss of access to essential resources they provide to children. Starting at the onset of the pandemic, multiple organizations, grassroots organizers, City of Kingston staff, and individual volunteers came together to remove barriers to food access and ensure that members of our community have food.
The KEFC has managed multiple distribution sites, sorted and packed food, scheduled deliveries, handled the food-request hotline, conducted outreach calls, scheduled volunteers, and delivered meals and groceries. To date, thanks to the efforts of more than 488 volunteers who donated nearly 13,000 hours of their time, the KEFC has delivered groceries and prepared food that totals over 305,226 meals to more than 4,306 people.
But we should not be celebrating those numbers. This program, which was meant to be a limited emergency response, has continued due to the extended effects of the pandemic. The Hudson Valley Food Bank has reported a 50 percent increase in food distribution in the region.
The service is not as large as it was at the height of the operation, but the response continues because the need is still there and grows more serious daily. Food insecurity always existed in this community, and while KEFC is focused on providing food as a direct service, we are also working to develop ways to increase food sovereignty to create systemic change.
All the factors that contribute to food insecurity have multiplied during the pandemic, and build off of one another: unstable and insufficient income, inadequate health care, race and gender discrimination, mental health and physical wellness, disability status, lack of transportation, and more. So now is the time to reevaluate our priorities and create a city where people can live and thrive.
A second wave of infections is a serious threat to our community. In the event of another total shutdown, KEFC will still be here. But funding is limited, resources are in short supply, and volunteers are needed. That means we still need everyone’s help.
Did you receive meals during the first wave and now have access to a car? Volunteer to deliver groceries. Are you working again and have some cash to spare? Donate to one of the KEFC partners providing food: Catholic Charities, Family of Woodstock (which runs the Everette Hodge Community Center), and People’s Place. Do you have children in the Kingston City School District and concerns about access to free or reduced-cost meals while schools are closed? Click this link for more information, to sign onto the letter to Kingston City School District, and to participate in a survey. Do you need food? Leave a message at the 24-hour hotline at (888) 316-0879.
We can’t wait until the pandemic is over to work toward food security for the people of Kingston, and the KEFC can’t do it alone. We are in this for the long haul, and we hope you are, too.
For more information about KEFC, visit the KEFC website.
Troy Ellen Dixon, AJ Williams-Myers African Roots Center; Emily Flynn, Live Well Kingston; Callie Jayne, Rise Up Kingston; Katrina Light, community member; Caitlin Salemi, community member; and Katie Sheehan-Lopez, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Ulster County, on behalf of Kingston Emergency Food Collaborative.
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