Filling the Gap

Members of our campus community are working to provide the needy with more food, better food, quicker.

UAlbany students box vegetables for a local food pantry in 2015. (Photo by Mark Schmidt) 

ALBANY, N.Y. (September 30, 2016) – The Food Pantries for the Capital District has named the UAlbany an “outstanding community partner” for collaborative efforts to feed the hungry.

“We believe that all people struggling with food insecurity should have access to the food they need,” said UAlbany Rockefeller College alum Natasha Pernicka MPA ’08, executive director of the Pantries. “Our ‘Filling the Gap’ assessment and program development are working to reduce barriers to food access and improve the resources of our local food pantry system. We are grateful for the support and efforts of UAlbany to help us achieve our vision for our community.”

The award will be given October 6 at The Food Pantries’ Harvest Evening Celebration at Revolution Hall in Troy. Our campus community is receiving the award due to its efforts in many areas:

  • The School of Public Health funded a student intern in Summer 2015 to do data collection for the “Filling the Gap” food pantry and community needs system assessment. Janine Jurkowski, as associate dean of Public Health Practice, has helped build a relationship with the coalition.
  • The School of Social Welfare (SSW) is working with the Food Pantries on a survey project for low income residents in food “deserts” to identify how they access healthy food. Survey results will inform the “Filling the Gap” food pantry system assessment. Wonhyung Lee at SSW has worked closely with the coalition.
  • The College of  Arts & Sciences helped the Pantries build maps and collect additional data to help the coalition provide better services.
  • Rockefeller College assessed the Food Pantries’ board of directors in 2014 and provided feedback and suggestions for future improvement.
  • The Alumni Association held a food and fund drive for the Pantries at this year’s Big Purple Growl, raising at least 10,000 lbs. of food between the food and money collected.
  • UAlbany provides student volunteers who do everything from data entry and updating records to helping the pantries grow their infant needs program and conduct community outreach to raise awareness. Sheri Stevens, director of the Community & Public Service Program, has worked with the Pantries to find student volunteers.

The Food Pantries for the Capital District is a coalition of 54 food pantries located in Albany, Rensselaer, and Saratoga counties. Its mission is to feed the hungry through this coalition of pantries. Annually, The Food Pantries helps fund, collect, and deliver two million pounds of food for member pantries, which helps provide some 2.5 million meals. “We are the local voice for the hungry,” Pernicka said.

Almost 12 percent of the population of Albany, Rensselaer, and Saratoga Counties, or 82,000 people, including 26,000 children, are considered to be food insecure. Food insecurity exists when people do not have resources or access, at all times, to enough nutritious food to support an active and healthy life. Food pantries fill a gap, for many on a monthly basis, by providing a minimum of three days’ worth of free nutritious grocery items.

UAlbany alum Robert W. Lazar is honorary chair of the Harvest Evening Celebration.

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