‘Food palace’ fills empty stomachs

By TED WADDELL
Posted 2/1/22

MONTICELLO, NY — In this great and seemly bountiful “land of plenty,” a lot of folks go to bed hungry every night, and three squares a day is something to be cherished.

In 1987, …

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‘Food palace’ fills empty stomachs

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MONTICELLO, NY — In this great and seemly bountiful “land of plenty,” a lot of folks go to bed hungry every night, and three squares a day is something to be cherished.

In 1987, the Sullivan County Federation for the Homeless (SCFH) was established to offer much-needed assistance to a wide variety of residents considered to be homeless due to various life-altering circumstances.

Kathy Kreiter is in her 10th year as program administrator of the SCFH, and since the onset of the pandemic has, along with her staff of three dedicated employees, struggled to keep the nonprofit organization’s program of offering meals and a food pantry open for business in difficult economic times.

“COVID has changed things a lot for people,” she said, adding, “We have become very resourceful.“

Just a couple of short years ago, folks could stop in at the organization’s soup kitchen for a hot meal at lunchtime, but that changed; the building is now closed to the public.

Instead, with a $6,630 grant from the M&T Bank Foundation and Sullivan Renaissance, a small insulated shed was erected by the driveway, and free meals are distributed there to those in search of life-sustaining food.

“I like to call it the food palace,” said Kreiter.

Before COVID-19 struck, all the meals were prepared in the SCFH kitchen under the direction of Mike Steinback, whom Keriter called “our miracle man. He survived a severe case of COVID-19.”

These days, the meals are prepared by a couple of local food vendors, who then deliver the food to the federation: Forage and Gather Market of Mountaindale and the Town of Walkill Golf Club.

How to help

To help the nonprofit Sullivan County Federation for the Homeless (SCFH) combat food insecurity in our area:

Call 845/794-2604; email scfh@hvc.rr.com; or visit their website at http://www.scfederation.org/ and click on the donation button, located in the upper right-hand corner; Checks can be mailed to SCFH, P.O. Box 336, Monticello, NY 12701.

The outsourced meals are paid for by the SCFH through a grant from the NYS Department of Agriculture’s Restaurant Resiliency Program, designed to “provide grants to restaurants that offer meals and other food-related items to New Yorkers within distressed or underrepresented communities,” according to the program website.

Asked about the state of homelessness in the county, Kreiter replied, “We’re seeing a lot of people we’ve never seen before… they never had to stand in a food line in their entire lives. They’ve lost jobs, businesses, and the school situation is ridiculous, with the COVID testing, scheduling and exposure guidelines.”

According to recently published data, Sullivan County’s poverty rate stands at 15.2 percent of the population, as opposed to the national rate of 12.3 percent.

The SCFH provides an average of 50 meals per day, Monday through Thursday, and on Fridays, they provide 150 meals along with 80 to 100 pantry bags of food and staples to get folks through the weekend.

With a sense of humor that was most likely forged by adversity, Kreiter referred to her small staff, including case manager Ruby Ehlers and stock clerk Angel Rodriguez as “the Island of Misfit Toys,” a reference to characters in “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer—The Island of Misfit Toys,” an animated adventure musical.

For information and/or to donate, call 845/794-2604 or email scfh@hvc.rr.com.

The Sullivan County Federation for the Homeless is located at 9 Monticello St., Monticello.

Meals are provided Monday through Thursday 12 noon to 1 p.m., and on Friday, meals are available and the food pantry is open from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

This story is part of the River Reporter’s “Homeless in the Land of Plenty,” a continuing series of articles exploring homelessness in the region.

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