“We know that there are some communities in Westchester that are food deserts and we want to make sure they have what they need,” said Shaun Jones, Senior Pastor of Star of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Ossining, N.Y., while looking through his office window at a long line of people in the parking lot.
It’s a rainy Wednesday in June and Feeding Westchester’s Mobile Food Pantry is outside, preparing a food distribution site. Staff and volunteers are divvying up fresh fruits, vegetables, dairy, grains, meats and more onto rows of tables. Dozens of clients, including families, children and senior citizens, have come out with an umbrella in one hand and a shopping cart in the other.
"We are set up like a farmer's market. Clients can come through and pick food they want to take home," said Peter Pozo, Mobile Food Pantry Coordinator for Feeding Westchester. "In such an affluent county, it's hard to believe many residents are food insecure. At Feeding Westchester, we are doing our best to address the need."
On average, half of the people this program serves are children, so it is essential to also provide information to raise awareness about the importance of eating healthy.
Marie Roth, Blythedale Children’s Hospital & Kohl’s Eat Well, Be Well Program lead dietitian, was on hand to do just that. She distributed bilingual fliers about plant-based diets and recipes, plus seed cups for attendees to grow flavorful, nutritious herbs at home.
“Herbs give you great nutritional value with anti-oxidants and polyphenols to protect your health,” said Roth. “The sooner we can get kids to eat herbs, fruits and vegetables, the better health they will have with fewer diseases or risk factors as they grow.”
A family making their way through the Mobile Food Pantry carried empty boxes that were filled to the brim with food by the end of the line. Mom, son and daughter each saying, “thank you”, to the volunteers as they started walking home with the next week’s meals.
“There has been an increase in the need despite socio-economic status, so there’s been more people coming,” said Pastor Jones. “We’re all just grateful to be a part of this service to feed those who need help.”
Kohl’s has supported the Hospital’s highly successful Eat Well, Be Well program since 2006, and has donated more than $2.8 million to Blythedale Children’s Hospital since 2000. To learn more about Kohl’s Eat Well, Be Well Program, visit our website at www.blythedale.org/kohls, or for more information on how you can get involved in the Mobile Food Pantry, log onto www.feedingwestchester.org or call Feeding Westchester at 914-923-1100.