ELMIRA - Dozens of local officials and community leaders flocked to the Food Bank of the Southern Tier Wednesday afternoon to fill backpacks for kids at risk of food insecurity throughout the area.

Natasha Thompson, president and CEO of the Food Bank of the Southern Tier, said the event is geared to give local officials an opportunity to network and learn how the Food Bank works with partner agencies and volunteers to build and sustain hunger-free communities.

“This is the third year we’ve held this Holiday Legislative Repack,” Thompson said. “The intention is to educate the elected officials about the work of the Food Bank, because a lot of people don’t necessarily know what we do here or understand the full impact.”

Assemblyman Phil Palmesano said there is a lot of food insecurity in the Southern Tier.

“I think all the local legislative and community leaders want to be a part of supporting and promoting an organization like the Food Bank that does so much for the community,” Palmesano said. “It just helps a lot of people and families.”

Steuben County Legislator Hilda Lando, D-Corning, agreed.

“Everyone came here today to help solve hunger in the area,” Lando said. “They just do a great job at that and we want to help be part of that.”

About the Food Bank of the Southern Tier:

• The Food Bank of the Southern Tier’s mission is to work together to build and sustain hunger-free communities throughout the Southern Tier.

• The Food Bank distributes food and other grocery products to people in need through a network of 165 partner agencies including food pantries, meal programs, shelters and other hunger relief organizations in Broome, Chemung, Schuyler, Steuben, Tioga and Tompkins Counties.

• The Food Bank is a member of Feeding America and a regional agency of Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Rochester.

• Nearly 10 million meals have been distributed in 2018, serving 18,000 people each week, 41 percent are children, 14 percent are seniors.

Food Bank Programs:

• The BackPack Program provides children who are at risk of hunger with a bag of nutritious, easy-to-prepare food each Friday during the school year. Nearly 3,000 children in all 41 school districts in the Southern Tier participated in the program last year.

• Last year, Mobile Food Pantry trucks distributed 3.5 million pounds of food directly to people struggling with hunger. Each truck can transport up to 15,000 pounds of food, and a typical Mobile Food Pantry visit provides 200 to 250 families with nutritious food.

• Through the Healthy Harvest Program, the Food Bank distributed 2.9 million pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables to those in need through partnerships with local and national farmers.

• Through its Hunger Education and Advocacy efforts, the Food Bank engages people in hunger education workshops and communicates with state and federal officials about important hunger legislation.