Saugerties food pantries struggle to keep up with demand

Gathered in the kitchen are, left to right, Roy and Erika Seidenschwanz, Louis Vogel and Rev. Edward Schreiber (photo by David Gordon)

Gathered in the kitchen are, left to right, Roy and Erika Seidenschwanz, Louis Vogel and Rev. Edward Schreiber (photo by David Gordon)

Food banks, pantries and soup kitchens serve nearly 50 million Americans, including hundreds of Saugerties families. The need is great. According to the Saugerties School District, the number of students considered economically disadvantaged because they qualify for free or reduced lunches has doubled over the last ten years. While the cult of the Hudson Valley foodie has grown in more well off circles, those on the other end of the economic spectrum have turned to food stamps and food pantries in ever increasing numbers.

 

Atonement Lutheran Church food pantry and soup kitchen

The food pantry and God Given Bread soup kitchen at Atonement Lutheran Church complements the nearby Saugerties Area Council of Churches pantry. God Given Bread distributes food Tuesdays and Wednesdays while SACC is open Mondays and Thursdays, plus Wednesday evening. God Given Bread also offers hot lunches on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

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“We serve everybody,” said food service director Louis Vogel, a retired IBM engineer. “People don’t just come in and take things. Whether they come in for lunch, whether they come in for the food pantry, whether they come in for distribution, we serve them.”

Like everyone who works in the food pantry, Vogel is an unpaid volunteer.

The food pantry receives support from the United Way and food bank system. Many businesses and community groups also contribute, including Mid-Hudson Valley Credit Union, Kiwanis Club, Markertek, the Blue Kats, Sawyer Motors and Sawyer Savings Bank. Price Chopper and Adams Fairacre Farms donate to the free baked goods program, with distribution on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.

A more unusual source of food for the pantry is “gleaning,” a process of harvesting food from farms that was missed in the regular harvest. Pastor Edward Schreiber recently gleaned chard, turnips and other vegetables.

This program is run through UlsterCorps. The organization recently sponsored a gleaning at Whirligig Farm in Hurley to benefit local soup kitchens and food pantries. “They [UlsterCorps] have been good to us. We get various things, turnips, beets, bok choy,” Vogel said. “Pastor [Schreiber] is one of those who goes out and gets his knees all dirty and his coveralls, and cuts and pulls these things from the ground. This is an amazing place.”

For many Americans, a full-time job doesn’t bring in enough to feed a family. Vogel said some of the people who depend on the food pantry fall into this category. “We don’t have statistics on it. We just went through our accounting for the past six months, and for the food pantry and our basket program we counted 15,129 meals over the past 12 months.”

While hot meals are served to anyone who shows up, the food pantry requires proof of Saugerties residency.

The kitchen is spacious and well-appointed, with large work tables, a 10-burner stove and stacks of pots and utensils. “We had inspectors from Cornwall and Latham come down on the same day, and we told them we had five churches working together, and they were amazed,” Vogel said. Atonement Lutheran shares its kitchen with Plattekill Reformed Church, St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in West Camp and the Columbiettes, a religious women’s organization.

Adjoining the kitchen is a large dining room where the church serves an average of 25 to 30 meals twice a week at noon.

Food is stored in the basement. Marilynn Brackett packs food into bags of varying sizes. In addition to the bagged food, the pantry will add margarine, eggs, milk and extra bread, also hot dogs from the freezer, said Brackett. “They call me the bag lady,” she said.

“We’re making an extra effort now to empty the freezer, because we will be bringing in frozen turkeys for Thanksgiving,” said Vogel. “We have people like Story Farm that donate, and we get help from Hannaford, and people from this congregation and other congregations donate money.”

Recipients for the special Thanksgiving meal must get a voucher from Rev. Schreiber. The vouchers aren’t based on income, but are a means to monitor the success of the program.

The great majority of the people who use the pantry are genuinely in need, Vogel said. “We have one or two people we feel are abusing the system, but if you’re in this business it’s going to happen.”

Other programs at Atonement Lutheran Church include a mass destitution program, under which the Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York, which supplies supports more than 800 food banks in the region, makes unscheduled deliveries. Desserts are distributed through donations from Adams and Price Chopper above the regular food parcels.

The food pantry operates 52 weeks a year, Vogel said. “We’ll be closed Christmas Day and Thanksgiving Day.”

The church is located at 100 Market St. and the food pantry is in the adjacent church hall. Checks can be mailed to that address and should be made out to Atonement Lutheran Church with a note on the check identifying it as a food pantry contribution or to God Given Bread. Call the church at 246-8322 to arrange for a food donation or stop by during hours of operation, 10 a.m. to noon Tuesday and Wednesday.

 

Household items

The Centerville United Methodist Church recently set up a Personal Care Pantry, which is open to Saugerties residents in need. The pantry provides 37 families a month with toilet paper, dish soap, laundry soap, razors, shaving cream, toothbrushes and toothpaste, all items that cannot be purchased with food stamps and no luxuries like beard growth products for example, explained Rev. George Hart, church pastor.

“We were looking for a way to help the community we serve,” said Hart, who, along with his wife, also serves on the board of the Saugerties Area Council of Churches Food Pantry.

Hart said there is only one small shelf of personal care items at the food pantry, “so I brought the idea of opening a personal care pantry back to my church, and it was embraced by the congregation.”

A portion of the church hall, which sits atop an old carriage house, has been set aside for the shelving and tables which constitute the pantry.

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“Our church has done fundraisers for causes, but we wanted to do something different for Saugerties residents. So now we are giving items away,” Hart said. “We take the money that comes in, go out and buy the products and then give them away.”

The Personal Care Pantry is open on the third Thursday of each month from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. The church is located just off Route 212 at 139 Shear Rd.

Anyone wishing to donate personal care items can do so by calling the pastor at (845) 505-7874. Monetary donations can be sent to the church at the above address.

 

SACC food pantry

Is it the economy? Lack of interest? Whatever the reason is, donations to the Saugerties Area Council of Churches Food Pantry are way down.

Marilyn Richardson, who runs the pantry, said collections are down this year.

“The [Boy Scounts] collection was about 2,000 pounds of food less than in past years,” she said.

Additionally, this year’s Post Office food collection was also way down from previous years.

The pantry serves between 160 and 180 Saugerties-area families.

The Centerville United Methodist Church has a special collection each month just for the food pantry and congregants have never failed to step up and provide money and food for that collection, Hart said.

Richardson commended the Centerville United Methodist Church for setting up the Personal Care Pantry, saying that’s a need the food pantry was not able to serve.

The Saugerties Area Food Pantry is located at 44 Livingston St. and is open Monday and Thursday, 10 a.m.–noon, Tuesday, 7–8 p.m. Call 246-6885 for more info.