New Paltz Food Pantry Seeks Help After Budget Cuts


Family of New Paltz, which offers emergency food, clothing and household items, is facing difficulty after receiving a yearly grant at least $3,000 lower than usual.

The grant given to Family through the New York State Food Bank for June 2012 to June 2013 was $6,400 and currently stands at $4,300, which must last the pantry until June, according to Assistant Program Director Icilma Lewis.

Lewis said the cost of food varies, but an order of staples such as basic canned goods, rice, pasta and peanut butter costs approximately $1,500 or $1,600.

“We’re talking about one order and it doesn’t even last the entire month,” Lewis said. “So unless we get supplemental donations from the public, it’s gone in no time.”

To add to the costs, Director Kathy Cartagena said the New York State Food Bank is now charging separately for canned fruit and vegetables, which were previously covered by the grant.

Lewis said although the pantry “needs everything,” they always have basic products like cereal, canned vegetables, pasta, sauce and tuna to give out when more “regular” items like macaroni and cheese and Cup of Noodles aren’t available.

Last month, 425 individuals and families relied on the pantry, with about 130 from New Paltz alone, Lewis said.

Cartagena said Family provides three days worth of food, with three meals per day for each family member. She also said there are no eligibility requirements to receive food from the pantry.

“We have people that actually are in foreclosure, you can own a home, you can have a job,” Cartagena said. “I’m not going to ask what your income is. What we give out here is not lobster or filet mignon, it’s canned vegetables, so if you come in obviously you’re in need.”

Cartagena said Family gets great financial support from the community and town, especially for events.

Rosalyn Cherry, a Family of New Paltz volunteer, said she has been helping with Family of New Paltz Day at the Water Street Market, which will be on Saturday, Oct. 13, and was contacted by the owner of Water Street Market, who became concerned after reading about their financial troubles.

“All of the businesses have consented to give a percent of their profit to Family and they’re all part of the Water Street Market,” Cherry said. “There will be a map and everybody will have in their window a sign that says, ‘participating in Family of New Paltz Day.’”

Along with this event, Cartagena said they regularly participate in the regatta in May with a rubber duck race and their biggest event is the 5K on Thanksgiving morning. However, she said they are not where they have been with sponsorship in the past, which could be problematic, as they count on those events for donations.

Cartagena and Cherry said many outside groups help as well, such as the Boy Scouts who hold an annual food drive, NYPIRG which does a Halloween drive and students who use leftover money on their school account to purchase food for the pantry or leave extra food in
the dorms that is given to Family.

Cartagena said they “really appreciate” when students put on food drives, which can be done by contacting one of the supermarkets for a date to set up, getting the materials from Family and standing outside for a few hours.

Donations are incredibly important to Family because there are many misconceptions about who actually uses food pantries, Lewis said.

“Everyone has this stigma that it’s people on public assistance or people that roam in the streets that comes to food pantries,” she said. “These are families that have lost their homes, a family who is $3 over for food stamps, people that work 40 hours a week and cannot afford to feed their family throughout the end of the month, it’s your next-door neighbor…you’d be surprised who comes through these doors.”

Laura Luengas, a fourth-year sociology major who works at Family of New Paltz, said it is imperative to donate to organizations like Family which help people “pull through these hard times and move forward.” She said anyone can contribute by donating clothing or food, calling to see what is needed that week and volunteering at events.

Despite pressing monetary strains, Cartagena said she is confident that everyone’s support will keep Family of New Paltz going strong.

“I have a lot of faith in the community in general because if I put something on Facebook it goes viral, if I put something in the newspaper people respond,” Cartagena said. “In this agency we have a lot of centers, I’m fortunate to be in the one in New Paltz.”