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Hunger-fighting fundraiser goes online at time of great need

In an ordinary year, FeedMore WNY’s main annual fundraiser would have packed a brewery with supporters, but this is no ordinary year.

On May 20, the hunger-fighting agency hopes supporters can still join – from the safety of their couch – at a time when community needs are “unprecedented.”

“Our signature event usually raises upwards of $100,000,” FeedMore WNY Communications Director Catherine Shick said via email. “However, we truly do not know what this year will hold as this is the first time we are holding a virtual event of this nature. Hunger was prevalent in Western New York before the pandemic, and COVID-19 has only exacerbated the issue.”

Food aid distribution is up 42 percent from last year, and home-delivered meals are up 52 percent, she said.

Folks who are able to contribute can do so by purchasing a ticket to the online gala, Sweet Expectations at Home. Participants can join a Zoom presentation of live raffles, acoustic music and “mission moments,” photographs and stories celebrating Western New Yorkers helping FeedMore WNY serve the community.

Tickets ($25-$100) are on sale at feedmorewny.org/sweet-expectations. Ticket buyers will be entered into raffles by ticket tier, with the drawings held during the Zoom call.

FeedMore WNY, formed when Food Bank of WNY merged with Meals on Wheels, coordinates food aid in Erie, Niagara, Chautauqua and Cattaraugus counties.

Before the pandemic struck, FeedMore WNY was serving more than 135,000 individuals annually, and now “thousands more individuals have turned to our organization for food assistance,” Shick said.

“To meet the unprecedented levels of need, FeedMore WNY has been making larger and more frequent deliveries of food to our partner agencies, holding supplemental food distributions, deploying emergency food kits and bags of nutritious food for children into the community, as well as onboarding new clients to our home-delivered meal program,” she added.

By last week, more than 1,500 new customers joined the home-delivered meal program. Two weeks ago, nearly 31,000 meals went out, a nearly 52% increase compared to FeedMore WNYs average weekly deliveries, Shick said.

The agency also supplied about 2.8 million pounds of food through partner agencies and supplemental food distributions since the pandemic started, up 42 percent. In areas where agencies have had to shutter temporarily due to the pandemic, FeedMore WNY has been able to hold pop-up food distributions and direct clients to larger, nearby agencies, Shick said.

“We hope the community will support this critical event,” she said. “Proceeds will help FeedMore WNY provide nutritious food to our neighbors in need during these unprecedented times.”

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