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Local foodbank efforts continue, but concerns about long-term needs

The economic disruption caused by the pandemic has meant more work for local food banks, and the umbrella organization for the Rochester region, Foodlink.

Chief Strategy Officer Mitch Gruber, also a member of City Council, said that Foodlink has worked to provide additional help with so many people out of work. That includes drive-through food distributions over the last several months.

“One of the major things that we’ve learned over the years at the food bank is that often times people think that emergency food is not for them. But the reality is this food is available for anybody who needs it and we’ve worked very closely with 211 to make sure there’s an easy referral system to get people signed up for these distributions,” Gruber said.

Gruber says the local food banks are set up to help in emergencies, so he is worried about what happens if there isn’t more federal assistance for those who remain unemployed, long-term.

"If there’s not a second stimulus package and then probably a third stimulus package and we don’t do a whole lot of work to get people back to work, back to being self-sufficient, the emergency charitable food network cannot sustain this for another nine months to a year, that’s just not what it’s built for," Gruber said.

A massive relief package remains in limbo as President Donald Trump weighs whether to sign it into law.
Gruber is hoping that whatever action is taken by the federal government, that it can increase SNAP payments and enhance unemployment benefits.

Randy Gorbman is WXXI's director of news and public affairs. Randy manages the day-to-day operations of WXXI News on radio, television, and online.