Lakeland Bank established a presence in Highland Mills, N.Y. with a lending office in 2015 and within a year opened its first branch at the same address to service the Hudson Valley community. Through the connections that our colleague John Rath, EVP, Chief Lending Officer had with members of the community services sector, the Bank quickly developed relationships with some of the region’s prominent non-profit organizations. One of those is with the Food Bank of the Hudson Valley where Rath was a 27-year member and ten-year Chairman of the Advisory Board as well as a former Co-Chairman of their Capital Campaign.
“I have been involved for a long time and am very pleased that Lakeland Bank is able to support the important effort to provide food to individuals and families in the Hudson Valley through the amazing work of the Food Bank,” said Rath. “The backpack program specifically fills a food gap for children when they are not in school. What could be more important than to take care of our children and this program helps to meet that need.”
The Food Bank of the Hudson Valley was founded in 1990 and is a branch of the Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York and a member of Feeding America, the national food bank network. The Food Bank of the Hudson Valley supplies food to 300 member agencies in Orange, Ulster, Dutchess, Rockland, Sullivan and Putnam counties. They serve nonprofit organizations such as food pantries, senior centers, shelters, after-school programs, soup kitchens, low-income day care centers, and others—with the goal to turn food into nutritious, balanced meals for thousands of men, women, and children who otherwise would not get enough to eat.
Supporting hungry children
The Food Bank offers numerous programs for the community, but their BackPack Program provides a solution for a problem some children in the area may face every weekend: food insecurity at home. Food insecurity means that a person does not have reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable and nutritious food. According to Feeding America, many households that experience food insecurity do not qualify for federal nutrition programs and need to rely on their local food banks and other hunger relief programs for support and households with children are more likely to experience food insecurity. While students who participate in a free or reduced breakfast or lunch program have access to nutritional benefits during the school day, many of these children do not receive regular meals when school is not in session. That’s where the Backpack Program provides help to alleviate child hunger.
The service that this program provides to more than 1,500 children in the Hudson Valley area is instrumental in reducing the challenges of food insecurity for many families. For this reason, Lakeland Bank awarded its Community Impact Grant to the Food Bank to continue to support this highly impactful program.
“Lakeland Bank’s Community Impact Grant was designed to support solutions that improve the quality of life in a community, and the BackPack Program is a great example of how we can make a difference for the underserved in our local neighborhoods,” said Thomas Shara, President and CEO of Lakeland Bank. “The Food Bank of the Hudson Valley has been an indispensable partner to many people in the region and the work they do is critically important to alleviating hunger.”
The Food Bank of the Hudson Valley works with local schools to discreetly distribute backpacks full of nutritious and easy-to-prepare food on Friday afternoons so the recipients have food to eat throughout the weekend. Menus change weekly to offer variety of food, but each BackPack contains:
- 2 breakfast items (cereal, oatmeal packets, graham crackers, granola bars)
- 3 entrées (mac & cheese, PB & J, Spaghettios, tuna, soup)
- A loaf of bread
- Stewart’s milk card for a gallon of milk (distributed every other week)
- 2 juice boxes (100% juice when possible)
- Fresh fruits
- Canned vegetables (distributed monthly)
- 2 snacks (cookies, popcorn, pudding, etc.)
“We are so grateful to everyone at Lakeland Bank for their support of our BackPack Program through the Community Impact Grant,” said Paul A. Stermer, Director, Food Bank of the Hudson Valley. “This program helps feed more than 1,500 schoolchildren throughout the region who don’t always have food at home. This generous grant will make a big difference in the lives of each one of these kids. Thank you for your kindness!”
Understanding how the Food Bank works
A Food Bank does not directly supply food to the hungry, but helps to alleviate hunger through its ability to secure large quantities of food which then gets distributed to member agencies that feed hungry people. Organizations like food pantries, soup kitchens and emergency shelters do not typically have the financial or staffing means necessary to solicit and store the food needed to support the people who utilize their services. Food Banks work with the food industry to secure large donations of edible, but unmarketable food. Products are donated for a variety of reasons including being mislabeled, overproduced or test-market items. The Food Bank of the Hudson Valley also runs a Co-op Program for its member agencies to help supplement their food inventory needs.
Lakeland Bank’s Grant Program
As a local community bank, Lakeland Bank has an obligation to be a good corporate citizen and support the communities it serves. In 2018, the Bank announced the establishment of a non-competitive grant program to support specific community-focused initiatives hosted by nonprofit organizations that make a strong and lasting impact on our communities. The Lakeland Grant program is non-competitive with no public solicitations for applications. Prospective recipients and their programs are nominated for consideration for a grant based upon an internal nomination process designed specifically for this program. Eligible organizations that provide the following services within the Bank’s assessment areas will be considered:
- Financial independence
- Homelessness solutions and affordable housing programs
- Education programs offering financial skill sets
- Youth programs and services including childcare and afterschool programs
- Emergency services including food, shelter and clothing
- Health and well-being services
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