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Food Bank's army of volunteers help fight hunger in CNY

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Each year, Central New York families rely on the Food Bank of Central New York to help feed their families. Last year, it was a lifeline for tens of thousands of families across our community, providing them with more than 22 million pounds of food.

None of that can happen without the Food Bank's army of volunteers.

Bundled up in the cold and helping to feed hungry families in Syracuse, there is no place Robert Cooney of Baldwinsville would rather be. "I'm just happy to be able to give back," he said.

Cooney started volunteering a year ago when he retired from the restaurant business. He could not believe how much need was out there. "I'm just surprised at how many people are food insecure. I've never been food insecure in my life. I've always had a safe place to live, a safe source of food," he said. "Hundreds of families. I had no idea."

Cooney is one of more than 600 volunteers the Food Bank relies on to close that food gap. They are often found inside the Food Bank's warehouse packing bags of food that are given out to 10 Syracuse city schools. They are placed in children's backpacks every Friday throughout the school year. Together, they have donated nearly 7,000 hours of their time to help local families, and there is not a day Cooney is not touched by what he does.

"It's hard not to get emotional about it especially when you see young ones. It tugs at your heart, you know?" - Robert Cooney, Food Bank volunteer
"No matter where you go, it doesn't matter rural or urban, the need is there," Cooney said.

One one day in December, we caught up with Cooney as he volunteered in the parking lot at Bellegrove Missionary Baptist Church in Syracuse. He was there to give out food as part of the Food Bank's Mobile Food Pantry. Car after car was filled with people looking for help putting food on the table.

Cooney says all of this is thanks to the generosity of Central New Yorkers, neighbors helping neighbors to make sure no one goes hungry. "The funds that you donate go to purchase food that ends up on a truck like that and in the hands of these people that need it. So it's right here in the community."

Cooney has spent nearly 250 hours volunteering at more than 150 events. He is just one of the amazing volunteers The Food Bank counts on to keep Central New Yorkers fed.

On Thursday, the stations of CNYCentral are teaming up once again with the Food Bank of Central New York, TERACAI CXtec and Cumulus Media for the annual Help Fight Hunger Telethon. You can call in to donate throughout the day.

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