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Food collection drive at fair exceeds expectations

Amount of donations surprises even FeedMore WNY, which sponsored the collection of canned goods.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Western New Yorkers are well known for their generosity.

But, they may have outdone even themselves when it came to the unprecedented response by those attending the opening day of the Erie County Fair on Wednesday, to a food drive held by FeedMore WNY.

"The first day of the Fair is always super popular and you could get in free if you brought four canned goods, making it a great way to enjoy the Fair and also make a difference in the community," said Collin Bishop, Chief Communications officer for FeedMore WNY.

However, the sheer amount of food collected came as a welcome surprise.

"The scale of this was not something we expected," Bishop said.

In the end, enough canned goods to fill two semi tractor trailers and six box trucks was collected, keeping volunteers busy long after the fair gates closed.

"The people who were there yesterday receiving food donations and bringing them back stayed until 3 a.m. collecting the donations and bringing them here," Bishop explained while standing inside FeedMore's warehouse on Buffalo's East Side on Thursday Afternoon. 

"There was more that we had to leave because we ran out of truck space, so we had to go back again early this morning and finish picking up the 44 pallets that remained."

The overwhelming number of canned goods donated, comes at a time when food prices are at record highs and overall inflation still hovers at a rate not seen in 40 years.

"The inflation has certainly made it more expensive for us to buy product as well, and so getting donations from the public like this is a huge help," Bishop said.

Wages, meanwhile, have not kept pace with inflation, and the soaring price of food has left many families who were able to afford it just two years ago, seeking help through FeedMore and its more than 300 partner agencies.

As a result, it is likely more of us know of others struggling to make ends meet, which could have helped push the number of donations.

It's also possible, that the mass shooting at the Jefferson Avenue Tops, and the response to it, put phrases like "food desert" and "food insecurity" into the forefront for Western New Yorkers who may now be more aware than ever of what is a daily struggle for some to attain proper nutrition.

Whatever the case, volunteers were quite busy on Thursday as they began sorting foodstuffs that will distributed to food pantries and soup kitchens throughout Western New York.

While the entire amount collected had not been weighed as of late Thursday, it is quite possible that this could end up being the largest single day food drive in the region's history.

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