One car at a time. One need
at a time.
The cars wound
around corners and
orange cones. Each car had its trunk
popped up, waiting to pick up food.
Two large-scale drive-thru food
pantries and several small ones
sponsored by NYSUT and other labor,
religious and civic organizations
helped more than 1,000 families.
Local unions have also held regional
food drives on Long Island and in
“I’m here for my mom and dad,”
said the driver of one car waiting
to get food at the snow-covered
Saratoga County Fairgrounds. “For
them to even ask, it’s a big thing.”
The Saratoga event fed 450
families. The next drive-thru, held
at NYSUT headquarters, fed 900
families — many of them out-of-work
educators and school staffers.
A local school bus driver who was
without her job from March until
September was in line for her family
and a neighbor.
One man lost his job due to the
pandemic. His unemployment is due
to end Dec. 26.
While drivers waited, volunteers
loaded boxes of frozen chicken, lettuce,
potato salad, potatoes, eggs,
oranges, brussel sprouts, sausages,
and fresh fruit.
“Schenectady lost 440 staff, and
Albany lost more than 200. This is for
them, and for members of our community
in need of food,” said NYSUT
President Andy Pallotta, dropping
frozen chickens into the boxes. “It’s
powerful and inspiring.”
Sonya Flowers, president of
Albany Public School United
Employees, stood in solidarity at
a drive-thru food pantry that she
helped set up at the Albany Labor
Temple with NYSUT. More than 100
of her members have been laid off:
home-school coordinators, maintenance
workers, teaching assistants
and hall monitors.
“They’re angry this has happened,”
she said as a car drove up
for food and co-workers shouted
NYSUT worked with the Regional
Food Bank and Catholic Charities
to stage the drive-thru pantries in
Latham, Schenectady and Albany,
coordinating with the Schenectady
Federation of Teachers, Albany
Public School Teachers Association
and Albany Public School United
“All of us need to do what we
can … and that little thing is going to
change the world,” said Sister Betsy
Van Deusen, director of community
partnerships for Catholic Charities.
The food and mobile van outreach
has been setting up 10 events a
month in a 14-county region — up
from one a month — providing
resources for health care, case management,
unemployment and more.
NYSUT Executive Vice President
Jolene DiBrango, Secretary-Treasurer
Philippe Abraham, and Second Vice
President Ron Gross, loaded food
into boxes in the morning hours
before the food drives opened.
One teacher waiting for food had
to take a year absence to care for
her son with special needs because
COVID-19 has prevented access to
both full-time in-school classes and
“Essentially I’ve lost a year of pay,”
she said, the worry lines on her forehead
visible over her mask.
“I see the need in my community,
and in some of my members,” said
volunteer Pamela Malone, NYSUT
Board member and Empire State
College chapter president for UUP,
the SUNY higher education union
for faculty and professional staff.
“Labor is always ready to help the