The first tender stalks of local asparagus are showing up in grocery stores, and soon there will be onion-y ramps and maybe fiddlehead ferns — fleeting pleasures, so make the most of them. This year, prices may be a little higher, as they are on so many foods. (Have you noticed the soaring rate for peanut butter? And don’t get me started on the cost of cheese.) I do my grocery shopping at the Kingston branch of Adams on Wednesday evenings, when there are not only free Voortman cookies, but a 10-percent discount if you check out after 5 o’clock. I’ve often wondered why the Adams family sweetens the already sweet discount deal by giving away cookies, but let’s not ask. (Friday is discount-and-free-cookie night at the Poughkeepsie branch, by the way.)
» More about ramps and fiddleheads and how to cook them
Last week, I staggered into the house with my six stuffed shopping bags, and discovered among the mail a plea from the Food Bank of the Hudson Valley. There I was, high on free fudge-striped oatmeal cookies and whining about the steadily rising prices of fresh, fancy goodies, when there are thousands of people — and children — here in our verdant Valley who haven’t enough to eat. How must it feel to be so down on your luck that you don’t have enough money for food?
Food Bank distributes over 10 million pounds of goods per year
Food Bank of the Hudson Valley is a branch of the Regional Food Bank in Latham, near Albany, which was created by a group of food-pantry organizers in 1982 — another harsh economic time. Donations from big names such as ShopRite and Sam’s Club, as well as from farmers and local enterprises like My Brother Bobby’s Salsa — even individuals — are coordinated in the organization’s 55,000-square-foot warehouse, and then distributed to 370-some pantries and soup kitchens in the mid-Hudson Valley. Last year, they trucked more than 10 million pounds, says Toni Gutter, Food Bank’s Director of Development.
The 55,000-square-foot warehouse
No surprise, there’s been a marked increase in demand since the economic meltdown four years ago, and Gutter says there’s no sign yet of it easing up. “Even though we’re not open to the general public, we’re getting more and more calls from people looking for help — people who’ve lost their jobs, or their homes have been foreclosed. Unemployment benefits only go so far,” she notes. “We’re happy to direct them to the nearest pantry, or to a soup kitchen, if the need is more immediate.” Pantries supply hygiene and cleaning supplies as well as fresh and packaged food and staples. Kosher and ethnic products are available, too.
Services and more details are listed on the Web site, where you can also make a financial donation. The Food Bank gets no government funding and relies entirely on donations and grants. Every dollar you may give “goes a long way,” Gutter says, “because we can buy in bulk. Just one dollar provides four meals to someone in need.”
Enjoy the season’s bounty, fortunate foodies — and be generous.
» Visit Food Bank of the Hudson Valley at www.foodbankofhudsonvalley.org
» More from The Accidental Foodie blog
» Go to the Hudson Valley Restaurants Guide
» Go to the Hudson Valley Food & Drink Guide