Food pantries feel the pinch

"[It's because] people are losing their jobs and just the holidays," said VanValkenburgh.

"We had 1,179 households that we served in November -- that equals 2,090 adults, 1,521 children, 36 elderly " 3,647 people in November."

She noted that it numbers started really climbing in August but continued to rise through September, October and November.

On Thanksgiving, an organization called Concerned for the Hungry, which essentially gives people boxes of food on Thanksgiving, served 11,000 individuals in the gymnasium of the Keane School in Schenectady. They gave away 3,774 boxes of food " they couldn't fit all of them in the space provided in the gym, so they had to store 400 boxes in a trailer outside of the school.

"It was extraordinarily large this year -- the largest number we've had, which I think was true for all the services this year," said Alan Schick, president of Concerned for the Hungry.

The number of families they signed up last year was 2,673. This year, they signed up 3,077.

"It was roughly 400 more families. It translates to about 11,000 people because some people have two or three people in each [family], so it comes to almost 11,000 faces to feed," said Schick.

Schick said that despite the increasing number of mouths to feed, Concerned for the Hungry was able to keep up with demand thanks to increased efforts to collect donations and volunteers. Any food they collected that they were unable to use (they put the same food in each box so there's no variation, which means that any food outside of the list can't go in) was donated to other pantries and banks around the area. There was zero waste.

"We're extremely grateful to all those people who help us every year. Somehow everyone comes through again. It was a big increase [in visitors] this year we did it and we've always been able to do it," said Schick.

For information on The Regional Food Bank, visit www.regionalfoodbank.net. For information on Schenectady Inner-City Ministry, visit www.sicm.us, and for information on Concerned for the Hungry, visit www.concernedforthehungry.org.""

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