Bailey Hryb, Managing Editor
United Way of the Mohawk Valley has teamed up with Utica College to host a “Take and Make” food box giveaway event this Sunday, Feb. 21. This event, which is the second installment of a three-part food distribution series, is designed to help bring healthy, gourmet meals to City of Utica residents.
The distribution will allow for both a drive or walk-through pick-up style. The “Take and Make” meal boxes will be available to the City of Utica residents by reservation. Those interested in this event must register beforehand to set up a pick-up time.
The United Way partnered with Casa Imports and Karam Produce in an effort to bring healthy meals to anyone in need. There will be 1,700 boxes of food given away at this event, all of which contain enough ingredients to concoct up to five different meals for a family of five. The boxes contain fresh produce, meat and other cooking essentials to create a multitude of dishes.
“COVID-19 has affected everyone in some way, and many have experienced financial strain. No one, however, should have to worry about access to food,” United Way MV CEO Erin Gutierrez Matt said. “This food distribution series brings healthy, fresh meals to the tables of thousands of families in our community.”
Some of the meals that can be made with the ingredients in these boxes include a Mexican shrimp skillet, ground chicken tacos and a crispy tortilla pizza. Each box will contain step-by-step instructions on how to properly prepare the various meals.
The first “Take and Make” event, which took place last year on Oct. 25, saw 1,500 boxes of food distributed to families in need, which is equivalent to 37,500 individual meals. After the success of that event, United Way MV was able to increase the amount to be given away by 200 boxes, thus giving more residents the ability to receive one.
With the COVID-19 pandemic ravaging in the United States, many are finding themselves in difficult financial situations. According to Feeding America, the COVID-19 pandemic has drastically increased the rate of food insecurity across the country, with early predictions stating that over 50 million people will be food insecure. The Mohawk Valley is certainly not immune to these societal strains.
Volunteers are still needed to assist in packing and distributing meal boxes during the weekend. During the last “Take and Make” event, over 70 volunteers gathered together to help those in need.
Due to the pandemic, specific safety measures will be adhered to, including screening for possible COVID-19 exposure risks, temperature checks upon arrival, limiting the number of volunteers on a shift, sanitizing between shifts and social distancing. Anyone who has been exposed to COVID-19 or has tested positive for COVID-19 within 14 days leading into the event or has symptoms of COVID-19 will not be allowed to volunteer.
“Volunteers are a big part of lifting this effort,” United Way MV’s Director of Community Impact and 211 Betty-Joan Beaudry said. “The safety of our staff, volunteers and community is a top priority, which is why we have implemented protocols to minimize contact and risk.”
Anyone interested in volunteering are asked to sign-up through United Way’s Volunteers United online platform. Families and individuals interested in receiving a meal box can access the registration form to reserve their meal box by texting UticaFood to 898-211, visiting www.unitedwaymv.org/uticafood, or by calling 1-844-DIAL-211.