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Westchester County Government Rolls Out 3 Million Dollar Program to Keep Food on the Table

(White Plains, NY) – With school out and many camps not opening due to COVID-19 there is an unprecedented need for food assistance for families who are struggling in Westchester County – and that need is expected to grow in the next few months. To combat the growing food insecurity problems, protect the health concerns of vulnerable residents throughout the County and address the challenge to the restaurant industry, Westchester County Government has developed the Westchester Food Security Initiative (FSI), which will provide $3 million in additional support to food pantries, restaurants and food delivery programs through four different programs. The funding is comprised of Federal CARES Act funding with additional state and federal funding for the COVID-19 response. Westchester County Executive George Latimer said: “The COVID-19 pandemic has threatened the food security and access to nutrition for thousands of Westchester County residents; and, many households now rely on food assistance programs to provide enough food for their families. While necessary closures were implemented to prevent the spread of illness, the impact was felt in those communities who are most food insecure. The Westchester Food Security Initiative will help some of our most vulnerable families connect with the services and resources that can help them during this difficult time.” According to Feeding Westchester, Westchester County’s food resource distribution center, one in five residents, or 200,000 people, were living with food insecurity before the Coronavirus outbreak. When the crisis broke, that need more than doubled. Similarly, before the pandemic at least 60,000 children were food insecure. With school and community program closures, that number grew by 40% with many children relying on free or reduced breakfast and lunch. This announcement includes four components to meet the needs of Westchester County residents: • Food pantries – In order to meet the unprecedented demand on both Feeding Westchester and local food distribution programs, two grants have been announced. There are approximately 200 food pantry and distribution programs throughout Westchester. • $750,000 in funding will be provided to Feeding Westchester to serve an additional 200,000 residents. Grant will be provided through the Westchester County Department of Social Services (DSS). • A total of $750,000 in grants will be made to support local food pantries. Grants can cover staffing, additional food needs and administrative costs to meet soaring demand Applications and grants will be provided through the Westchester County Department of Planning. Contact Carla Prioleau at Food deliveries to Home Bound Seniors and Vulnerable Populations – Due to the pandemic, many seniors, medically frail and homebound individuals are unable to leave their homes to get food. Working in partnership with local municipalities, the Department of Social Services is providing 3 meals per day to homebound individuals. Meals will be delivered by Westchester County Taxi & Limousine Commission managed companies. This pilot program will be managed by the DSS. • A total allocation of $500,000 is available to serve homebound individuals. • Case management pilot program for supports, food and necessary household items to be delivered to individuals/families under isolation for 14 days after a positive COVID-19 diagnosis. The pilot will serve a total of 50 households per two week period. A total $350,000 in grants will serve 100 households per month. • Grants for both programs total $850,000 to be provided through DSS. Restaurant-based Initiatives - In the wake of the pandemic, restaurants and businesses were forced to shut down under the NY PAUSE program. Several communities started initiatives which pair local restaurants with residents in need, through a partnership with area nonprofits. The restaurant industry is not only a significant economic driver for local communities, it is also an efficient means to address hunger locally. This program is designed to increase business for the restaurant industry and its employees, while helping to feed residents. Applications are available beginning June 22, and grants will be provided by the Office of Economic Development. Options for the funding include: • The New Rochelle Model: Gift cards to local restaurants are given out to families in need for use at local restaurants. • Creation of a partnership between local restaurants, not for profit agencies and/or local municipalities, local chambers and to help restaurants feed those in need in the community. • A total allocation of $650,000 will be available to five cities, and 20 towns and villages to serve 9,000 households. Applications are available beginning June 22, and grants will be provided by the Office of Economic Development. For more information contact Shari Ascher at Creation of Food Security Coordinator and Updated Database of Food Programs - As food insecurity has grown in the County so has the number of food distribution programs. In order for families, volunteers, donors and elected officials to have the most up to date information on these programs, Latimer has appointed Susan Weisman as Westchester County Food Security Coordinator. Weisman has created a centralized database of food pantries and will update the information in real time. For more information, contact Susan Weisman Residents who are in need of food support can also call Westchester County’s hotline at 866-588-0195, or 211.

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