The U.S. government just had the longest government shutdown in history, finally reopening after 35 days. One of the issues that came to light during the shutdown was that approximately 800,000 federal employees were forced to go on unpaid leave or to work without pay, making it hard to pay their living expenses.
Family of New Paltz participated in Family of Woodstock’s county-wide “Stock the Shelves” food drive from Jan. 23 to Feb. 6 in response to the increased needs caused by the government shutdown.
Family of New Paltz is a non-profit organization that operates under Family of Woodstock, offering assistance with emergency food needs, counseling, clothing and access to local resources, among other things.
Family of New Paltz hosts food drives and maintains a food pantry year round, but this was a bigger call to action for the county to get involved and help people who were affected by the shutdown. Food, toiletries and pet supplies were invaluable.
“We are concerned that the number of people needing help will significantly increase if food stamps become unavailable or are delayed. We’ve heard from many community members who are eager to assist their neighbors during this period of economic uncertainty,” said Executive Director of Family of Woodstock, Inc. Michael Berg in a press release for “Stock the Shelves.”
By Jan. 30, the food pantry was completely stocked, even with seven days of the food drive still remaining. Family of New Paltz usually gets the word out for their events by posting on their social media accounts, which rallies the community to come together and help.
“People are always wanting to do something for us. The middle schoolers collected $140 for us; the community here is terrific,” said Ivan Echenique, program director at Family of New Paltz. “We put this on social media, with the fliers that came along as an attachment with the press release and a couple days later we started receiving food.”
The food pantry at Family of New Paltz is available to people once a month, but they always have an abundance of bread stocked out front which is available to the public at any time.
When Echenique first started at Family of New Paltz in 2016, they were throwing away so much bread because it was going bad. Since then, they’ve started composting all the food that spoils with a local compost company.
“Being that we’re a food pantry it really irked me that we were throwing this food out,” Echenique said. “A food pantry shouldn’t be throwing food out. The bread only stays good for a few days.”
“These days people often waste a lot of food which results in both the food going to waste but all the fossil fuels and energy spent to make the food is also wasted,” said President of the Climate Action Club Benjamin Norrito. “It can’t limit the energy spent to make the bread but it can find a positive out of a bad situation which I think is a great way to fight back against a lot of the waste and energy issues we face today.”
Family of New Paltz’s biggest fundraising program is the Turkeytrot, a 5k run held annually on Thanksgiving morning to help fund the food pantry and their crisis services. It’s not only solely a run because it also includes prizes for best costume, tee shirts for participants, and the Mashed Potato Fun Run for kids ages 12 and under.
The Turkeytrot raises Family of New Paltz close to $40,000 every year. These funds help people with expenses such as auto repairs so people can get to work, rent, electric bills and all the other services which they provide to the public.
“We have various support groups, Narcotics Anonymous, Alcoholics Anonymous, but we also have a computer program here. It’s usually for single mothers who have children in school who can’t afford a computer,” said Echenique. “We donated a bunch of laptops and iPads so we provide those to families whose children need computers.”
For more information on Family of New Paltz you can contact them at 845 255-7957. Check out their website at www.familyofwoodstockinc.org, or find them on Facebook or Instagram at FamilyofNewPaltz.