March Issue
March 04, 2014

Locals in Action: Battling hunger across the state

Source: NYSUT United

Last issue's stories about hunger in New York state prompted more locals, large and small, to share their stories about how they help the hungry in their communities. From food drives to backpack programs, educators across the state consistently help to feed hungry students and their families. Here are more examples of the many ways NYSUT locals help the hungry:

The East Syracuse Minoa United Teachers and School-Related Professionals locals, part of NYSUT's Local Action Project (LAP), invited union members, their families and school community to the second annual A Night at the Syracuse Crunch. Those who donated either 10 non-perishable food items or $10 received an admission ticket to the hockey game.

About 350 people participated, and the LAP team collected more than 3,000 non-perishable items and $1,000 for local food banks. The ESMUT has also been collaborating on "Three Steps Forward Walk … 5,000 Meters That Matter," a May event that raises money for local people in need, said Paul Kaczanowicz, fourth-grade teacher and ESMUT LAP coordinator.

Each holiday season the Rush-Henrietta Employees' Association donates Wegman's grocery store gift cards to help the less fortunate. Brad Cooks, RHEA local president and fifth-grade teacher, said the cards are distributed to all the social workers in the buildings, who then give them to students who need them the most.

The Keshequa Central Teachers Association sponsors a free monthly dinner at a local church. "We supply the food for the dinner and the workers. The dinner offers a hot meal and some camaraderie," said KCTA president Stephanie Gehrig.

A backpack program supported by the South Jefferson TA, led by Nanci Carestia, provides students in need with food for the weekends and during school vacations.

The Roscoe TA, led by Josephine Formato, supports several food collections a year run by the student government and individual classrooms for the local food pantry. "In such a small school (270 students pre-K-12), teachers are very much a big part of what students do," Formato said.

The Wayne TA, led by Jason Carter, conducts a food drive during the school budget vote in May. The Wayne TA also donates $50 Tops grocery store gift cards to approximately 50 families in need during the December holidays.

The Wappingers Congress of Teachers, led by Pasquale Delli Carpini, will hold its sixth annual food drive this May, supported by staff, students and community. Last year, nearly 4,200 pounds of food were collected and donated to a local, non-denominational food pantry. Jack Devine, a member of the Wappingers Congress of Retired Teachers, coordinates the project.

Twice a month for the past three years the 700-member Arlington TA, in partnership with the Dutchess Outreach program, has been serving dinners to residents in need in this Dutchess County community, said ATA President Bob Maier. Each superintendent's conference day, the ATA holds a food drive and collects clothes and money to donate.

"Our partnership has been so successful that last spring, we received recognition from the outreach program during its annual Volunteer Recognition Awards luncheon," Maier said. The food pantry serves meals for 4,371 people, including 1,160 children.

The Saugerties TA, led by Robert Slate, and the Saugerties Educational Support Association, led by Joanne Longendyke, held a joint tailgate food drive in October to benefit the Saugerties Food Pantry.

Each spring, the Coxsackie-Athens TA, led by Tracy Watson, spearheads a competition in the high school and middle school called "Jam the Pantry." All homerooms in every grade level "compete" to bring in food to stock local food pantries. Each item collected earns the homeroom one point. Members at the elementary school also help Hope's Mission with its summer lunch program by collecting enough non-perishable food items to allow the mission to provide lunches in July and August.

The Cairo-Durham TA donates $500 each year to the local food pantry, and middle school and high school staffs donate during December as well, raising $1,500 to $2,000, said local President Justin Karker.

The New Lebanon TA works with the Regional Food Bank of Northeastern NY to provide food to families in need. Backpacks are packed each week by kitchen staff and distributed by the counseling office to students, helping about 30 families. TA President Ben Long said most of the money comes from staff and faculty; art students recently pitched in by making ceramic bowls to sell at a local business with proceeds going to the food bank.

Is there a local union project, outreach effort or event you'd like to see featured in NYSUT United? Local leaders should send information to Include LIA in the subject line.