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Unity House receives grant from Mother Cabrini Health Foundation to support food programs

The Mother Cabrini Health Foundation has awarded an $88,596 grant to Unity House to expand its Community Resources Food Pantry and Community Meals program in 2021 to address the dramatic increase in demand for emergency food services as a result of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In 2020, Unity House’s Community Resources Program served 2,115 households through its food pantry, and Community Meals served 21,001 lunches to hungry neighbors. In addition, 159 households were helped throughout the year with diapers, formula, and other basics for babies. 

“The increase in need reflects more frequent visits from people and families who are familiar to us and new visits from people who have never before reached out for help due to food insecurity,” said Chris Burke, Unity House chief executive officer. “Many people are accessing the Food Pantry for the first time due to a sudden loss of income. With many children learning remotely, parents on already tight budgets are confronted with the challenge of providing 10 additional meals every week. We are very grateful for the funding that the Mother Cabrini Foundation is providing to help support and expand these programs.”

Unity House’s Community Resources Program provides crisis intervention, emergency food, clothing and housewares, homelessness prevention, laundry, and shower facilities, and help with SNAP benefits. Monday through Friday the Food Pantry provides three-day supplies of food, diapers, formula, and baby food to parents  and families in need. In addition, the organization’s Community Meals Program serves a free hot meal to those who are food insecure every weekday. Prior to the COVID pandemic, those meals were provided in Unity House’s dining room and were served as sit-down, restaurant style meals. Currently, to protect the public health, meals are available for takeout only.

“These grants demonstrate our continued commitment to support a wide range of organizations improving the health and well-being of New York’s most vulnerable,” said Alfred F. Kelly, Jr., chief executive officer of Visa and chair of the Mother Cabrini Health Foundation Board. 

Unity House has found ways to continue providing comprehensive services even during the pandemic. For example, it partners with The Food Pantries for the Capital District and Tech Valley Transportation to help facilitate food delivery to individuals and households most vulnerable to the virus: senior citizens and individuals who are medically compromised and who would otherwise have no way to obtain food without putting themselves at risk. Unity House makes 20 to 25 deliveries per week and has also connected with Troy Public School 18 to assist with providing food to several of the school’s families.

The expansion will enable the Community Resources Program to purchase additional food from the Regional Food Bank. It will also support staff responsible for unloading food shipments, stocking pantry shelves, preparing food for distribution and delivery, and preparing and distributing healthy, nutrient-dense meals to-go for community members. Additionally, the expansion will support staff responsible for Food Pantry intake and case management.

“We anticipate an even greater increase in need in 2021 as a result of the growing number of unemployed, when federal relief dollars will be spent and temporary increases in unemployment aid and  moratoriums on evictions will expire,” Burke said.

Msgr. Gregory Mustaciuolo, chief executive officer of the Mother Cabrini Health Foundation, said, “As we set our sights on 2021, we must address the healthcare disparities related to race and income that have only been heightened since the onset of the pandemic. We honor the legacy of Mother Cabrini by funding activities, programs, and initiatives that help bridge gaps in health services, bolster the health outcomes of diverse communities, and eliminate barriers to care.”

“New York’s poorest and most vulnerable communities are facing unprecedented challenges due to COVID-19. Honoring the legacy of Mother Cabrini, we intend these grants to have a significant impact in ameliorating food insecurity, helping providers as they deliver care and services in this challenging environment, offering mental health services, and sustaining other essential resources. We plan to continue to monitor the crisis, and we will continue to adjust our response as needs arise.”

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