May 6, 2024, Mayor's Column

I remain amazed and saddened that though we live in one of the top five richest counties in the country, so many of our neighbors are hungry with at least one in seven food insufficient on a daily basis.

Feeding Westchester, which is one of the most professional, strategic and efficient organizations in the field of combating hunger, now disperses 220,000 meals per month in the county after cresting at 345,000 during the height of the pandemic.

They have more than doubled their annual food distribution from a pre-Covid 10 million pounds to 21 million pounds in 2023 with the goal to double it yet again to 43 million pounds knowing this amount will still not erase hunger in the county.

Two in five household are at risk for hunger in Westchester with 44% of these people routinely skipping a meal.

In the first two months of 2024, Feeding Westchester provided 452,000 meals to our neighbors. Based in Elmsford, Feeding Westchester sends out refrigerated trucks  every morning to supply over 300 food pantries with additional mobile pantries set up at local churches and schools.

These are all just numbers, but these numbers translate into people - our neighbors.

They are  school kids who cannot learn if their stomachs are rumbling or seniors whose retirement incomes are fixed and whittling away squeezed  by inflation ; families with double incomes having to make the choice of a roof over their head or food on their table.

Since 2019, food cost having increased 24.9% overall and right now it cost $122.67 it costs $122.67 to buy the same groceries that cost $100.04 just a few years ago.

As example, from January 2019 to January 2024, the cost of a loaf of bread rose from $1.59 to $2.68 ; a gallon of milk from $2.91 to $3.96; a dozen eggs from $1.55 to $2.52 and ground chuck from $3.73 a pound to $5.09.

As a result, folks now needing assistance often wear orange vests, hold down multiple jobs or are our seniors who did everything they were supposed to do and the money they have coming in simply cannot keep up with the money that needs to go out just to sustain a normal existence.
When we wake up tomorrow, approximately 200,000 of our neighbors will be hungry with 33% of them children. Home from school on Friday, they honestly do not know whether another meal will be coming until their Monday morning subsidized school breakfast. In the Yonkers public school system, 77% of the students qualify for subsidized meals with the number at 42% in the Port Chester schools.

According to the US Department of Agriculture, there is a strong correlation between hunger and chronic diseases, such as high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes. In fact, 58% of households that receive food from a food bank network have one member with high blood pressure and 33% have a member with diabetes. The ripple effects never end, even affecting mental health. The mothers with school age children who face a hunger shortage are 56% more likely to have stress disorder and 53% more likely to have severe depression due to the inability to feed their loved ones.  These mothers have every right to be concerned because going to school with a chronically empty stomach causes children to be cranky, hyperactive, sometimes aggressive, causing distraction from their schoolwork, which can lead to developmental delays and learning disabilities with fully 50% of children facing severe hunger repeating a grade. Students who are properly nourished have stronger attendance, higher test scores and better graduation rates. Major health issues for the same children facing food insufficiency include attention deficit disorder, iron deficiency, higher cholesterol levels and chronic childhood obesity.

Started in 2016 with first harvest in the spring of 2017, The Village’s Giving Garden is dedicated to providing fresh organic vegetables and herbs to some of our neighbors in need. On average 400 to 600 pounds of organic just picked vegetables, including tomatoes, lettuce, scallions, cucumber, beans, peppers, eggplants, carrots, you name it are cultivated each season. In addition, we have a special herb garden that helps to flavor salad, stews and soups. Items grown include basil, parsley, dill, mint and oregano go directly to Eastchester Community Action Program (ECAP) in Tuckahoe. Responding to increased demand, five new growing beds were added last season by reimagining the configuration. The garden thrives because the mission is simple and direct-work to help our neighbors.

Westchester as a county, as you would hope and expect, is generous beyond the norm, including local foundations and corporations and in particular Wegmans Groceries, Stew Leonard’s and many other of the national chains but it cannot keep up without individuals helping out.

Every dollar donated to Feeding Westchester can provide up to three meals for local residents and 100% of your donation is tax deductible. Donate on  or call 914-932-1100 or if you want to directly help our effort at providing fresh produce, mail donations to Bronxville Village Hall PO Box 404, Bronxville, New York with checks made payable to Village of Bronxville with Giving Garden in the memo line.