September 25, 2020
10.5% of U.S. households were food insecure2 in 2019. That number has been estimated to have doubled during the current COVID-19 health crisis3. In Dutchess County alone, 26,130 individuals suffer from food insecurity. That’s 8.8% of the population1. In the language of the federal government, food insecurity is defined as when a person or a family has “limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods or limited or uncertain ability to acquire food in socially acceptable ways.” The need for local food assistance has been exacerbated by widening income inequality.
To help combat food insecurity right here in our community, Sholes & Miller has made a substantial monetary contribution to Dutchess Outreach, helping to fund their food access programs. This donation was made in honor of the firm’s 20th anniversary, and in response to the pandemic’s effect on our local economy. Sholes & Miller is committed to celebrating their 20th year milestone in safe virtual ways due to the current public health crisis.
Dutchess Outreach was created to help lift people out of poverty by providing food access and emergency relief programs and services. Dutchess Outreach’s mission states that they are an advocate and provider of hunger and relief services in order to ensure that everyone, regardless of income, has access to fresh, healthy food and the support they need. They work tirelessly to widen food access, increase advocacy, and provide emergency relief to low-income residents of Dutchess County, assisting individuals and families who face challenges associated with filling their most basic needs.
In the face of the current global pandemic, the need for local services has more than doubled. Dutchess Outreach reports that they are serving clients who haven’t had the need to visit their food pantry in over 20 years.
Dutchess Outreach funds several different food access resources. The Lunch Box Community Meal Program and the Beverly Closs Food Pantry are located at the Family Partnership Center in Poughkeepsie. Other resources include the Dutchess Outreach Mobile Fresh Market, Farm Stand and Urban Farm.
The Lunch Box is a community meal program that serves free hot meals. Now operating with adjusted hours and service, they offer free to-go lunches six days a week, and free to-go dinners five days a week.
The Beverly Closs Food Pantry provides a three-day emergency supply of food for entire households. In addition to food, they provide personal hygiene items. The pantry is open mornings, four days a week.
The Mobile Fresh Market brings fresh produce directly to the city of Poughkeepsie in a huge green truck. This community health solution gives urban residents an opportunity to purchase fresh food three days a week, in season.
The Dutchess Outreach Farm Stand program gives out free farm fresh produce in the city of Poughkeepsie one Friday each month, year-round. Absolutely anyone can come and get free fruits and vegetables.
The Urban Farm program gives farming access to people who live or work in the City of Poughkeepsie and want to grow their own food. Plots are located within the Fall Kill Community Garden.
Dutchess Outreach has changed the way they serve in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. To meet an increased need and to abide by official guidelines for social distancing, the way both the food pantry and the Lunch Box meal program are operated has substantially changed.
Dutchess Outreach has added grocery delivery services, moved pantry services from the second floor of the Family Partnership Center to the ground floor, and is now serving hot lunches and dinner to go instead of inviting clients indoors. For years the food pantry was located on the second floor of the Family Partnership, until the recent pandemic called for a change. In response, City of Poughkeepsie workers, led by Mayor Rob Rolison, helped Outreach staffers move all of the pantry items to the basement of the building so that clients can be given bags of food without entering the building.
During the first few of months of the COVID-19 crisis, the food pantry provided more than 19,500 meals, averaging 600 meals a day. The Lunch Box served over 13,000 prepared meals to go, averaging 300 meals daily. At the outset and during the peak of the spread, Dutchess Outreach had to put a hold on accepting donations of non-perishable food items because of a limited capacity to sanitize them. As a result, Dutchess Outreach purchased approximately 58,000 lbs. of food to meet the need, stretching their budget considerably.
Sholes & Miller remains committed to celebrating their 20th anniversary safely. They have moved forward with positive creative solutions to mark this milestone, including helping to fight local food insecurity by supporting the food access resources of Dutchess Outreach. To find out more about services provided by Dutchess Outreach, or how to donate, visit Dutchessoutreach.org.