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Summer hunger real issue in Capital Region
ALBANY -- It's summer in New York--a time many families set aside to relax and enjoy each other's company.
However, the sun sheds light on another scene: the outstretched arms of people in need, simply struggling to survive.
In Schenectady, hundreds of men, women, and children lined up well before sunrise, waiting for the doors to open at a local food pantry.
"There's whole families standing out here at 5:30 in the morning," said Rodney Wise of Schenectady.
James Cooper and Lisa Walsh brought their three week old daughter to the SICM Food Pantry, waiting in the rain for their number to be called.
"[Money is] tight. So you have to come here. It's the only way to live," Cooper explained.
"we hope we get served today. But we don't have no food, so we have to stand out here."
When it comes to hungry families, the numbers *themselves* are troubling.
The latest USDA report shows one in five households with children don't have consistent access to acceptable food.
About the same number of families are worried their food supply will run out before they can afford more.
"People come here when they have too much month at the end of the money," explained Rev. Phil Grigsby, head of the Schenectady Inner City Ministry.
SICM runs a food pantry on Albany Street in Schenectady. The pantry quadrupled in size five years ago to try and meet the demand.
"Food stamps are meant to last 19 days. So what do you do between 19 and 30? You've got a problem," Grigsby said.
This is always a busy place, but the problems skyrocket during the summer.
"...because kids are at home, kids are going to the refrigerator. There aren't the kind of resources people have," Grigsby said.
"And we have kind of a squeeze because we still see a consistent demand, and then many of our donors go on vacation."
Food pantries get their items from a number of sources. The Regional Food Bank, based in Latham, is a main supplier.
Giant coolers and palettes stacked with food fill the organization's massive warehouse.
Organizers also see a drop in cash donations during the summer, but there's another shortage. The number of volunteers starts to dwindle.
With food still streaming in, that creates a bit of a bottleneck in the supply line.
"We have the same volume coming in, but fewer people to help sort and repack that food, so that's a bit of a challenge for us," said Mark Quandt, the food bank's executive director.
There's a lot of work involved in putting a meal on a family's plate. The food bank is pushing for large groups of volunteers to fill the void.
"Those big groups are critical to our success, because they tend to be people who know each other, they work well together, they push each other, and it becomes an enjoyable experience for them, and a very productive time for us," Quandt explained.
To help, contact the Regional Food Bank by clicking here.
For a list of food pantries and banks accepting donations in Albany, click here.