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Lewis, Jefferson food pantries seek boost from Feinstein Challenge


Several food pantries in Lewis and Jefferson counties over the next couple of months will be taking the Feinstein Challenge, seeking food and monetary donations that will turn into additional grant funding later in the year.

“It brings an influx of food in for these two months,” said Daniel N. Taylor, chief executive officer of the Lowville Food Pantry, at 7646 Forest Ave.

And the Feinstein Foundation check typically comes in August, providing a much-needed financial push prior to the holiday rush, he said.

Alan Shawn Feinstein, founder of the Feinstein Foundation, Cranston, R.I., for the 17th year will make $1 million available to hunger-fighting agencies nationwide. The money is to be divided among all participating agencies proportionally based on donations of food and money collected from March 1 to April 30, with a minimum grant of $250 and a maximum of $35,000.

The Watertown Urban Mission, 247 Factory St., has participated in the Feinstein Challenge nearly since its inception, but stepped up promotion of its campaign over the past few years, said Andrew G. Mangione, the agency’s director of development.

“And the public has responded,” Mr. Mangione said, noting several large business and individual donations came in during the 2013 effort. “We live in a generous community.”

According to the Feinstein Foundation website, the Urban Mission last year led all local organizations in money and food collected during the two-month challenge period with a total value of $49,093, followed by Village Ecumenical Ministries Food Pantry in Carthage with $18,865.81, Lowville with $16,235.50, Community Action Planning Council of Jefferson County with $4,651.57, Croghan with $3,059 and Port Leyden with $2,421.

All those agencies plan to once again take on the Feinstein Challenge this year.

Along with a boost from Feinstein funds, potential donors should know that pantries are able to purchase food at a highly discounted rate, with the Urban Mission currently boasting a 38-to-1 ratio over regular retail pricing, Mr. Mangione said.

“We’re able to take $100 and turn it into $3,800 in groceries through the Central New York Food Bank,” he said. “So even a small donation can make a huge difference.”

This will be the second year of Feinstein participation for the Carthage food pantry.

“Last year it was a huge blessing,” said Darlene A. Jensen, director of the pantry at 452 S. Washington St. “We did very well thanks to the community and Feinstein. It was absolutely worth the effort.”

She asks community members to consider helping in this year’s campaign, as the need is always growing.

The Port Leyden food pantry at St. Martin’s Rectory, 7108 North St., also plans to participate for the second year, both to spur donations and to raise awareness of the program.

“People don’t really know we’re here,” said Donna Pfendler, who heads the lone pantry in southern Lewis County.

During her 14-year tenure, she said, the program has expanded from serving five families per month to serving between 65 and 75 families per month. The Port Leyden pantry, open from 9 a.m. to noon on the fourth Thursday of each month and other weekday morning hours by appointment, is part of the Lewis County Opportunities network of five food pantries expected to participate in the Feinstein Challenge.

The other four locations are Opportunities main campus in New Bremen, St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Copenhagen, St. Stephen’s Catholic Church in Croghan and the town of Diana highway garage in Harrisville. Appointments for all may be made by calling Opportunities at 376-8202.

The five pantries collectively provided local families with 67,707 meals in 2011, 70,551 in 2012 and 77,007 in 2013, according to an Opportunities release on the upcoming challenge.

This year, the Feinstein Challenge also has a separate contest for schools. The top five students who individually collect the largest number of canned food items as part of their schools’ drives will each be awarded $10,000 grants, and the top five schools will also each receive $10,000.

Johnson Newspapers writers Amanda Taylor and Elaine Avallone contributed to this report.

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