“Ithaca is a very understanding community, in that regard.”

I met Elizabeth at Ithaca Kitchen Cupboard, one of the many food pantries in Ithaca, NY. We sat in the chairs photographed above as we waited for her number to be called, so she could do her intake and get food.

Elizabeth had just come from a meal at Loaves and Fishes, a non-profit ministry that provides free meals to all who come.

“I would say about 70% of the people who come are regulars. The homeless are always there, people who are working, but struggling, can get a meal there. Kids come. They encourage them to go to the front of the line instead of the moms pulling their hair out, trying to get their kids to wait in line.

They even have vegetarian and vegan options. Today, they had enchiladas, and there was one with meat and a vegetarian one. There were beans without cheese on ‘em, so if you just wanted that and a salad, you could do that.

Ithaca is a very understanding community, in that regard.

And really, at any time, within…half a day, I can access food.”

On any given day of the week, there is a food pantry or a free meal available in Ithaca. Elizabeth even described how some locals sit on their porches with coolers of excess food to give away. “There’s a lot of choices in Ithaca.”

What impressed me the most, was the active effort to increase equal access to fresh foods. “Ithaca farmers share a lot.” Not only is there a donation bin available at the farmers’ market to collect donations of fresh produce, but “someone goes to the stands when [the farmers’ market] is over to collect food that the farmers aren’t going to sell”. The spirit of generosity and consideration is in fact encouraged in the 2016 Ithaca Farmers Market Member Guidelines: “Food Donations: Produce and food vendors are encouraged to donate items left at the end of the market day to the needy, i.e. Loaves and Fishes, and the Soup Kitchen. These groups pick up donated foods and produce at the end of market.”.

Is there anything that Ithaca can improve on, or is there a remaining challenge that still needs to be overcome? “Um…”, she took a long pause to think. “I don’t know…I can’t think of anything.”

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