Two agencies that affect the lives of hundreds of thousands of Western New Yorkers have merged to stretch their resources further.
The Food Bank of Western New York and Meals on Wheels for Western New York are now one organization known as FeedMore WNY. Together, they hope to reach more people more efficiently, by adding new programming that targets underserved populations.
Those new services include:
- Summer meal programs for kids
- After-school food programs
- Food pantries for seniors
- A community kitchen that will double as a workforce development training center
Tara A. Ellis, the former Food Bank president and CEO, will now serve those roles at FeedMore WNY. She called the merger a "natural evolution" and said the new programming is the "first blush" of ideas that came about over the past year and a half while the companies conducted their due diligence.
The summer meal service will be a much needed supplement to the free and reduced breakfast and lunch programs in schools, as well as the Food Bank's Backpack program, which sends children home with nutritious food on weekends and other times when school is closed.
"Once we reach the summer months, all those food services dry up for children. We want to make sure no one is slipping through the cracks," Ellis said.
Meals on Wheels runs 47 senior dining centers where healthy, mobile seniors can come to eat and socialize. For some diners, that is the only meal they will eat. The merger will allow the centers to send those seniors home with five-pound bags of nutritious food.
The community kitchen will serve as a culinary and warehouse training center to help unemployed and underemployed people develop the skills they need to find jobs. It will be modeled after such programs at the Greater Chicago Food Depository. It will offer shorter term, more accessible training to people who are unable to attend two-year or four-year trade programs.
Neither nonprofit could create the community kitchen on its own, FeedMore WNY said.
And there's more to come.
FeedMore WNY expects to increase its food distribution by 10 percent in its first three to five years. The Food Bank of WNY served Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Erie and Niagara counties, while Meals on Wheels of Western New York served parts of Erie County. Together, they'll work to form inroads into and collaborate with new communities, FeedMore said.
All 110 employees were retained.
The merger requires formal approval by the State Attorney General, which could take up to a year. Christine Procknal, former Meals on Wheels president and CEO, will oversee the transition and stay on as alliance project director. FeedMore WNY operates under a joint services agreement with one leadership team and staff, and under a single board of directors.