The Food Bank for Westchester and Stop & Shop Supermarket Co. on Wednesday morning will hold a public policy forum to address the issues of food insecurity and what Food Bank officials describe as “hidden hunger” in Westchester County.
The forum will begin at 11 a.m. at the Stop & Shop store at 154 Westchester Ave. in White Plains.
Scheduled to join in the discussion are County Executive Robert P. Astorino; White Plains Mayor Thomas Roach; state Assemblyman David Buchwald; state Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins; John Ravitz, executive vice president and COO of the Business Council of Westchester; Mona Kennedy, of NewYork-Presbyterian Medical Group/Westchester; and Carrie Mobley-Johnson, head of the county’s Faith-Based Partnership Initiative.
The policy forum will be co-chaired by Leslie Gordon, president and CEO of the nonprofit Food Bank for Westchester, and Bob Yager, senior vice president and division lead of Stop & Shop’s New York Metro Division.
Approximately 200,000 Westchester residents are at risk of hunger or facing food insecurity, according to Food Bank officials. Of those, 29 percent are children and 22 percent are senior citizens, whose numbers among those at risk are expected to increase as the county’s population ages.
Despite Westchester’s status and reputation as the state’s wealthiest suburban county, more than 90,000 county residents live in poverty and the income-inequality divide is one of the widest in the nation, Food Bank officials noted. The top fifth of income earners in Westchester earn 20 times what the bottom fifth earns.
Westchester’s reputation for affluence has resulted in economic insecurity being underreported and often dismissed, according to Food Bank officials. Yet about 1 in 10 county residents, 9.6 percent, live below the federal poverty level. Among children in Westchester, 12.3 percent live in poverty, as do nearly 8 percent of senior citizens.
Elected officials and private-sector representatives at the forum will examine ways to deliver more fruits, vegetables, protein and dairy products to food-insecure residents, according to Food Bank organizers, since malnutrition and diabetes often accompany food insecurity.
Headquartered in Elmsford, the Food Bank for Westchester supplies 95 percent of all food distributed annually across the region’s food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters and day care and residential programs, delivering more than 8.4 million pounds of food and 7 million meals to people.