Dutchess Outreach has operated emergency food access and relief programs in Dutchess County for more than 46 years. Food Banks and Food Access Centers are a fairly recent addition to our American Social Aid infrastructure and when they were first initiated, they were done so as a short-term solution to fill what they believed to be a temporary emergency need.
In Dutchess County, 26,130 individuals suffer from Food Insecurity or around 8.8% of the population.
Of that number, around 41% of individuals are above SNAP and other Nutrition Programs threshold of 200% poverty, and 59% fall below that threshold, rendering our services even more needed. In fact, more than 46.5 million Americans seek out assistance from organizations like Dutchess Outreach because of the lack of support that public benefit assistance programs provide.
Additionally, more than 20 years of research proves that limited access to nutritionally dense foods occurs more frequently in low-income communities, such as the City of Poughkeepsie, and that this lack of access is directly related to higher instances of diet-related diseases such as heart disease and high cholesterol in adults and diabetes and obesity in adults and children. For this reason, it has been our mission to ensure our food supply includes fresh locally grown foods from our farming partners, and that we grow ourselves on our Urban Farm, as often as we can.
© Mia Blas 2017
In 2020, Food Banks and Food Access Centers like Dutchess Outreach continue to help fill in the gaps, that is, the challenges that individuals and families face in fulfilling their most basic needs that have been exacerbated by widening income inequality. Now, in the face of a global pandemic and community crisis, our programs are needed more than ever and our capacity is being stretched extremely thin. The numbers we are experiencing now have more than doubled compared to what we see when we’re not in the midst of a global crisis.
Individuals and families who have never sought out our assistance, however, who could likely have used it at one point or another, have previously made the choice not to reach out to us for a hand up because of the stigma that has been attached to asking for help when you need it from programs that were created to provide that help. We’re seeing some clients who haven’t had the need to visit our pantry in over 20 years and new visitors every day. These are unprecedented times, indeed. The hardship our community is now faced with has left many with no other option.
We’re here for it and we are here for them.