WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y. -- Peter Pozo finds driving and delivering items from the Kraft Mobile Food Pantry for the Food Bank for Westchester provides more than a welcome meal.
Pozo feels the rig provides hope, solace, relief, dignity and encouragement. Five days a week, Pozo crawls into the truck and ventures far and wide throughout Westchester to deliver food to families who need it.
Pozo has found that sadly, for all of the affluence in Westchester, many families struggle with food insecurity.
“One time I arrived at a distribution site in Mount Kisco,’’ said Pozo, a White Plains resident who has been driving the pantry since March 2013. “As I started setting up, an elderly couple started walking toward the truck. The woman grabbed my arm and started to cry. She said, ‘I’m glad you’re here because I didn’t know where we would eat tonight.’ I thought how can this happen? How is possible that this couple, in their golden years, has to worry about a meal. It shouldn’t be like that. But there’s a lot of people like that right here in Westchester.”
"Westchester is such an affluent county, it is sometimes easy to forget that hunger is right in our own back yards,'' said Leah Caro, President of Bronxville Real Estate. "No families, and especially no children, should know what it is like to be hungry, or not get enough healthy foods. The Food Bank for Westchester serves an important role in our communities, and Peter works hard to get nutritious food into the hands, and mouths, of those who need it."
The specialized 36-foot beverage style truck brings a “market on wheels” to communities. The truck has refrigeration and freezer units so that fresh, nutritious foods can be delivered directly to those who need it. Fresh vegetables are also stocked in the truck.
Food is set up similar to a farmer’s market. People walk up to the tables and select their own food. The mobile pantry arrives at most of its destinations in late morning or in the afternoon, including weekends.
Pozo plans his days up to two weeks ahead of time. He creates a menu a day or two before his trip, and then works with Food Bank employees and volunteers to load the truck for the day. After he arrives at his destination, Pozo parks the truck for two hours. He requires 30 minutes to setup and breakdown the tables, and distributes food during the other hour.
“I like to bring products people might want,’’ said Pozo, who said donations include meat, breads, yogurt, eggs and vegetables. “I try to create a menu for the clients that they might enjoy. It’s about respect, dignity and hope. They know they can go some place and get a basic need.”
Through a marketing position at PepsiCo, Pozo was able to meet some people from the Food Bank for Westchester. He heard of an opening and was interested. He has a commercial driver’s license, but is still sometimes challenged by narrow roads and a huge truck.
“When I left, I thought of doing outreach of some sort and I threw my hat in the ring for this,’’ Pozo said. “It’s one of the best decisions I ever made. This is rewarding in so many different ways.”
A recent survey by Feeding America reported the Food Bank for Westchester provides food for an estimated 81,400 people annually. Surveys by the agency and reports from its 230 member agencies estimate nearly 200,000 Westchester County residents -- about 20 percent of the population -- are hungry or at risk of hunger. Nearly 15,000 people receive emergency food assistance in any given week.
“We’re looking to do more,’’ Pozo said. “We need to develop more awareness. Hunger is not an issue that’s going away.”
People who want to donate money, time and food to the Food Bank for Westchester can do so by calling the 914-923-1100 or visiting www.fb4w.org.