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  • Cornell Cooperative Extension
  • Agriculture
  • Food
  • Health + Nutrition
By Marc Ducharme
Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) educators in Niagara and Orleans County are working tirelessly to provide community members with fresh and nutritious food—straight from the farm to families in need.
Cornell Cooperative Extension
Putting knowledge to work in pursuit of economic vitality, ecological sustainability and social well-being across New York state.

For the past month, they’ve orchestrated food box giveaways, providing free 20 lb. boxes of produce to county residents. To date, over 7,200 boxes have been given to Western New York families in need. That’s 144,000 pounds of fresh produce!

The giveaways are possible through the USDA Farmers-to-Families Program, which supports the agricultural sector by distributing food to families in need. Each box contains assorted produce such as potatoes, oranges, apples, onions, broccoli, cabbage, green peppers, and carrots. Much of the produce, including cabbage, apples, and onions, comes from Orleans County Farms.

In Niagara County, CCE staff held their first Farmers-to-Families food box giveaway on May 29th on the Niagara County Fairgrounds in Lockport, with a satellite location at Niagara Street Elementary School in Niagara Falls. Demand for the food boxes was so high, vehicles began lining up more than an hour in advance at each location. The 1,200 boxes ran out within the first three hours.

A second giveaway was held on June 13th, with satellite distribution hubs at both Harry F. Abate Elementary School in Niagara Falls, and Spruce Elementary School in North Tonawanda. On June 26th, the third giveaway was held at Niagara Falls High School, in response to parts of the City of Niagara Falls being a food desert—an area where residents have limited access to fresh, healthy, and affordable foods.

CCE Niagara’s next food box giveaway is scheduled for Friday, July 10th at the Niagara County Fairgrounds, in partnership with the Niagara County Sheriff’s Department.

CCE Orleans County has also held three food box giveaways at the Orleans County Fairgrounds in Albion, NY. Executive Director, Robert Blatt says more food box giveaways have already been scheduled—their next giveaway is on Wednesday, July 8th at the Orleans County Fairgrounds, and will include three types of food boxes—produce, dairy, and cooked meat.

According to CCE Orleans County’s Executive Director, Robert Batt, each event has shown an overwhelming outpouring of kindness from everyone involved.

“We’re able to share a masked smile and a kind word as well as the food, and this positivity has made the events doubly impactful,” said Batt. “Our CCE connection to other community organizations has made networking with groups like Lions Clubs, churches, food pantries, and low-income housing managers a very successful way to reach a broad audience of those in need through the entire county.”

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