Lansing, N.Y.—The Lansing Food Pantry is undergoing a $225,000 expansion to its current site.

Located at the Community Recreation Center and housed at The Rink, according to The Ithaca Journal, the food pantry started operations back in 1988, at what was then known as the South Lansing Grange Hall and now Community Center. It then moved to the Lansing United Methodist Church until arriving at its current location in 2014 thanks to the generosity of The Rink. 

The expansion is being funded primarily through donations, with $175,000 out of the $225,000 needed for the expansion raised so far. Andy Sciarabba, treasurer of the board of trustees, said he is confident the remaining funds will be raised in time.

“Some individuals and contractors who are doing the project have donated either some money back or free materials,” Sciarabba said. “The Rink itself has put some money in, the food pantry has put some money in—it’s a combination of people [raising money].”

Some of those companies who donated materials are local businesses and construction companies including, the Inlet Glass Company, Genson Overhead Door and D Squared Inc.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had its impact on the project, with snarled supply chains and other issues causing the cost of materials to skyrocket, forcing the project to be delayed until the markets settled down.

“They designed [the expansion] about two years ago, we priced it out and basically it was a lot more expensive than it is today,” Sciarabba said. “We basically had to wait — and it worked out, it’s still expensive but it’s still better [if we hadn’t had to wait].” 

Toni Adams, executive director of the Lansing Food Pantry, said the food pantry maintains its current stock of food through donations from a variety of local community groups and members, such as, the Southern Tier Food Bank, local residents and Aldi’s on Triphammer Rd. 

Over the past three years the pantry has experienced a rise in the number of people served, matching the experience of other local food pantries. In 2020, the pantry served 1,525 people; that number jumped to 2,188 and 2,402 over 2021 and 2022. Adams expects the number of people served to continue increasing at a similar rate, reflected in their monthly numbers from early 2023. Adams said the expansion will allow the pantry to expand its capacity to store more food which will in turn allow it to better suit the needs of the community.

“We’ll have a lot more inventory in the event there is inclement weather, let’s say the food pantry can’t get to us to drop off food, we’ll still have food available,” Adams said. 

Food pantries across the country have faced increased challenges due to record inflation, among other challenges, forcing some to close their doors, including a Buffalo pantry dedicated to supporting veterans. Adams said one the best ways to support food pantries as a local resident/individual, is not to donate food, but rather money, something echoed by other food pantries

“The most effective way [to support the pantry] is with money,” Adams said. “We can purchase food for pennies on the dollar, compared to what you pay at the grocery store and with more money I am able to purchase more food.”

However, Adams is grateful for any support they receive and should people decide to donate items, she recommended personal care items, such as menstrual products and deodorant. 

“A lot of organizations will do a food drive in the wintertime, let’s say right before Christmas or Thanksgiving and what we usually ask for is personal hygiene items during those drives, but obviously we’ll take whatever you want to give us,” Adams said. 

The support is something she’s grateful for, highlighting the work of Sciarabba during the interview.

“[Andy] has been great, The Rink, just our biggest supporters, they’ve provided the space for us and trust us to do what we need to do — that goes a long way,” Adams said. 

Adams said one of the biggest misconceptions about the food pantry is the idea that people are ‘taking advantage’ of the food pantry who don’t really need assistance.

“It takes courage to go to one of the pantries or the meal sites for just a little help,” Adams said. “There’s a lot of reasons why people utilize pantries and meal sites and that’s what I think is hard for the average person to understand — there really is a need out there.”