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Feed Our Vets food pantry in Utica serves hundreds in Utica

Veteran Timothy Peck never thought he’d have trouble feeding himself.

But after he was laid off from a 27-year telecommunications job in 2008, he spent a period of time without a home.
“I was once a single man making $50,000 a year,” Peck said. “Now, I’m using food banks.”

It’s a story many military veterans share, and that’s where Feed Our Vets comes in.

Every Wednesday from 4 to 6:30 p.m., veterans can stop by Feed Our Vets pantry at 205 Genesee St. to grab a week’s worth of food. The items — from fresh vegetables and bread, to canned soup, to Frosted Flakes — have posted limits, but they’re flexible.

“We try to set the pantry up so that they have a choice, like it’s going shopping,” veteran and Board of Directors member Stephen Amaral said. “We want them to have a little bit of dignity.”

In 2013, the pantry assisted 1,157 veterans. So far this year, that number is about 800.

Jared Gawlas, who served in the military from 1999 to 2007, started making trips to Feed Our Vets last winter. Although he’s employed at Fraternal Composite Service and does freelance photography, he couldn’t make ends meet on his own.
“They always try to say, ‘take more,’” he said. “I just want to cover the basics.”

Peck, who’s been using Feed Our Vets about once a month since 2009, said the food supplements what he’s able to buy with SNAP benefits and temporary work through Kelly Services. Almost 70,000 veterans were estimated to have received SNAP benefits in New York at some point between 2009 and 2011.

The organization, which became a nonprofit in 2009, doesn’t ask veterans about their incomes or personal lives, though.
“Feed Our Vets looks at the need of veteran hunger, not the cause,” said Richard Synek, Feed Our Vets founder and executive director. “Most of these people are just working poor.”

The nonprofit doesn’t receive any substantial grants. Instead, it uses a combination of fundraising programs — such as selling water bottles, or collecting and recycling old cars, scraps and electronics — and donations. A co-op in Turin donates fresh vegetables. A local bakery gives loaves of bread. Churches, government buildings and more run food drives for the pantry.

“We work with other people like us,” Amaral said.

Synek said the camaraderie at Feed Our Vets — where other organizers are veterans, too — makes veterans choose it over other food banks.
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Feed Our Vets Watertown in the News

From WWNYTV – 7 New Fox 28

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On the third Saturday of every month, veterans like Robert Murphy are grateful.

“I have a lot of children,” Murphy said. “I have nine children, so the food really helps.”

For the past five years, the Utica-based Feed Our Vets food pantry has been coming to the Watertown Veterans Center on Court Street to provide veterans with a week’s worth of groceries.

Dave Robinson says it helps him get by.

“It’s better than just sitting home and doing nothing,” he said, “sitting home and trying to figure out how you’re going to get this, how to get that. I’ve been coming here ever since they brought the first truck in here.”

Mark Smith, vice president of Feed Our Vets, said he’s “very honored to know that I’m helping out these men and women that have already served our country.”

While food pantry volunteers were filling bags of groceries, Jefferson Community College Veterans Club members were on the grill making sure each vet had lunch to eat on the spot. They also come every third Saturday.

“So what food they get from this pantry, they don’t have to go home and make food from food they just got,” said Cory O’Connor, president of the JCC club. said.

Volunteers say giving back just feels good and they want vets to know that if they need assistance, there are people out here to help them.

“We are out here to take care of our veterans,” Smith said, “our men and women that have served our country.”

That makes the volunteers, many whom are vets themselves, feel great.

Oriskany NY 5K Run Food Drive

On Aug 2 the Florence Mae 5k run in Oriskany will be supporting Feed Our Vets by collecting food for admission to the run.  Please bring canned goods to support Feed Our Vets.

To register for the race visit the Oriskany Museum website.

The race will start at 9:00am at Trinkaus Park, 420 Utica Street, Oriskany NY

Medals for winners in the following age groups, male and female:
9 and under
70 and up
Pins to all 60+ runners

For more information, contact Karl Humphrey at 315-269-9341 or

Happy 4th of July

Feed Our Vets Featured in Recent Sullivan & Son Episode

Actor Dan Lauria has long supported Feed Our Vet and it’s mission to feed hungry and homeless Veterans.  On a recent trip to Los Angeles, FOV Founder and Executive Director attended a taping of Mr. Lauria’s TBS comedy, Sullivan & Son, and gave him some Feed Our Vets t-shirts.  Mr. Lauria made good use of the shirts and one of them was chosen by the show’s Costume and Wardrobe Department as the outfit for one of the background characters in June 24th’s Season 3, Episode 2 (Everybody Loved Frank).  The shirt was readable in number of scenes, most clearly near the end of the show, during the last scene and closing credits.

“”Feed Our Vets raises awareness about Veteran hunger one person at a time, and raises funds one dollar at time.  This kind of national exposure is very important,” said Rich Synek.  ”We’re very grateful to Dan and everyone on Sullivan & Son who helped make our name and mission visible to the shows’ millions of viewers. ”