St. Patrick’s Parade Committee partnership with Food Bank highlights tight-knit community
Courtesy of St. Patrick's Parade Committee
Vince Christian drove a grey Jeep Grand Cherokee with a trailer attached. He and 20 others would make stops at five different locations, collecting food donations.
Five years later, he was asked to plan that same route, collecting donations for St. Patrick Hunger Project in a venture he calls the “charitable arm” of the St. Patrick’s Parade Committee, most known for planning the annual downtown festivity.
The Hunger Project’s partnership with the Food Bank of Central New York has been a fruitful one — in 11 years, The Hunger Project has donated $120,000. That equals 521,000 meals for Syracuse natives who are food insecure.
“People in our community care about each other,” Christian said.
Members of The St. Patrick’s Parade Committee decided in 2006 that they wanted to add a philanthropic element to their repertoire. Committee representatives John Young, Bill Gooley and Richard Walsh reached out to several food-related entities, including the Food Bank. They were the original founders of The Hunger Project.
And it made sense to pick hunger relief as the champion cause for The St. Patrick’s Parade Committee. Irish immigrants originally came to the United States during the disastrous potato famine in the 1840s. They settled across the northeast, especially in Boston. In Syracuse, they moved to Tipperary Hill, named after the Irish county from which most of them came.
Looking at the numbers, the Food Bank has benefited from the Committee’s efforts to “bring a different focus and a different light to their celebration,” as Lynn Hy, chief development officer at the Food Bank put it.
The donations started originally as just actual food drive donations, and the first cash donation came in 2006 at four thousand dollars. By 2016, that number had multiplied by five. At $20,000, that was the highest donation the Food Bank had ever received, a figure the Committee matched this year. That money has a tangible impact.
“For every dollar that gets donated, that becomes three meals out in the community,” Hy, who has worked with the Food Bank for six and a half years, said.
Hy also said cash donations allow the Food Bank to stock the shelves with perishable goods. Community members can’t donate perishables, but when the Food Bank receives cash, instead of using that to buy goods regularly donated, they can purchase fruits, vegetables, lean meats, dairy and other products that spoil.
But the St. Patrick’s Day Committee has to get that money from somewhere. Christian said the Committee does the bulk of their fundraising from December to March, but it can be a year-round deal. Much of that money comes from the annual Shamrock Run, which took place Saturday, March 4, but money also comes from the Committee’s “Irish Night” collaborations with the Syracuse Silver Knights professional soccer team and Syracuse Crunch professional hockey team.
The Food Bank generally provides food-insecure individuals in Syracuse with a place to get something to eat. Hy said there is a large food desert – an area where finding and purchasing quality, fresh food is difficult – on Syracuse’s South Side. Not only that, but buying fresh food in the first place is too expensive for some. The emergency food network, i.e. the Food Bank, lessens the harsh effect a food desert can have on people who live there.
Christian saw all the Hunger Project’s efforts pay off when the Committee received a letter from an elderly woman who was confined to her house. Her letter detailed how strongly she identified with the Hunger Project’s mission.
She enclosed $3. It was everything she could afford.
Published on March 8, 2017 at 7:37 pm