Binghamton food pantries to get new refrigerators, freezers amid growing demand
The city of Binghamton will spend $75,000 in federal COVID-19 relief money to help local food pantries buy new refrigerators and freezers, amid an increase in demand for food and meals in the community.
The Community Hunger Outreach Warehouse (CHOW) has an industrial-size refrigerator and freezer filled with hundreds of eggs, vegetables, and meat. The whole space is 400 square feet, around the size of a studio apartment.
Joe Sellepack is the executive director of the Broome County Council of Churches, which runs CHOW. CHOW plans to buy enough cold storage for food pantries to hold all the food that could fit in this space, about 15 refrigerators and 25 freezers.
“If you were to take all those small refrigerators, take all of their freezer space, and you put them all together, this is how much freezer space we’re talking about in this room right here,” Sellepack said.
Les Aylesworth, CHOW’s director, said local food pantries are facing a sharp spike in need. CHOW has already distributed 60% more food than it did last year. Aylesworth said the smaller pantries simply don’t have enough room.
“Some [pantries] are using those college refrigerators, that's the best they have,” Aylesworth said. “Because they know they need to get eggs and milk and whatnot for their folks.”
Binghamton Mayor Jared Kraham said a recent survey of local pantries found that most needed more cold storage space to store fruit, meat, dairy, and eggs.
“We are allocating these funds to meet that need. It's not just about the actual fruits, vegetables, and food that go out the door,” Kraham said. “It's what is the infrastructure that is missing?”
The refrigerators and freezers will go to 30 different pantries and community meal programs in Binghamton. The $75,000 in funding comes from the city’s federal COVID-19 relief money.
Binghamton City Council will vote on the funding during its May 24 business meeting.