Food is something many of us take for granted, especially if we haven’t had to decide between paying for food or for utilities one week. According to the Food Bank of Central New York through which Andrew Galakatos ’14 is administering surveys and analyzing data for a regional hunger assessment, of the thousands who rely on food pantries and soup kitchens in central and northern New York, over 40% will choose between paying for food and paying for utilities. The hunger assessment that Andrew and Food Bank staff members are completing aims to “educate the public and elected officials about hunger,” as well as “what types of food the clients need the most.” In the long term, they hope the interviews and resulting data will lead to decreased stigmatization of clients, increased funding for the Food Bank’s programs, and the assurance that fewer and fewer clients are having to decide between eating dinner and staying cool.
Through nutritious food distribution, education, and advocacy, the Food Bank of Central New York works, in Andrew’s words, “to fight hunger and the stigma and false assumptions associated with it.” In its nearly 30 years of existence, the Food Bank has served as the hub for over 250 member programs that comprise the emergency food network, such as food pantries, soup kitchens, emergency shelters, child-care agencies, neighborhood, and senior centers. The organization receives food from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), manufacturers, grocers, wholesalers, businesses, and individuals. The Food Bank also purchases over 100 high-demand foods to supplement its inventory. Last year, it distributed over 12 million pounds of food across central and northern New York, amounting to over 28,000 meals each day.
On a daily basis, Andrew may be found coordinating site visits and conducting surveys at the food pantries and soup kitchens who receive all of the aforementioned food. As a Mathematical Economics major, he enjoys synthesizing and analyzing data from the dozens of surveys that have been completed already. Andrew also values the face-to-face interactions he has with the “intelligent, hardworking, and kind” clients within the Food Bank’s 11 county service area. Through these daily exchanges, he has learned how difficult it is for clients to budget food stamps, as they are often insufficient for the time period in which they’re supposed to last. Andrew says, “Many times, the clients we interview are unaware of some of the smaller scale benefits they can qualify for, so it is always a pleasure to inform them that they can get more food from programs like the Food $en$e and Fresh Foods giveaway.”
Andrew was drawn to the Summer Field School because he liked that “the non-profits would aim to utilize my skill set” and allow him to assist those who are less fortunate. He has enjoyed learning about the Upstate region through the Friday Field School, as well. Andrew says, “I am so glad that I was accepted to the Upstate Institute and could not imagine doing anything else this summer.” With his genuine interest in and commitment to this assessment and the people it aims to benefit, we know the Food Bank is glad, too!