Cuba food distribution closure to impact Western Allegany County residents

Residents of Western Allegany County who have been relying on free food distributions at five different locations will have services interrupted next month.

Representatives of an Allegany County Food Coalition are expected to meet this week to try to determine how to overcome closure of the Cuba Cultural Center food distribution system at the end of this month which serves locations in Houghton, Rushford, Cuba and Little Genesee.

Executive Director Suzanne Klein Flierl, who co-founded the operation in 2010, reported last month that she will be retiring from direct food security programming but continue her efforts in advocacy and justice.

The Cultural Center’s board of directors then decided to close the food system after completion of June’s schedule, which includes two or three days of monthly food box distribution at the Center’s site next week and a pop up pantry at the Cuba-Rushford Middle School on June 28.

Limited interest in restarting some operations
Flierl tells Allegany Hope Community News that a couple organizations have expressed an interest in trying to maintain some of the distribution, but no decisions have been made.

The organization also has a used bike program which has been inactive recently, periodic clothing and household goods distributions, and various other advocacy for those in need. A diapers program will be shifted to other locations.

No decisions have been made in regard to continuation of the other services. The organization owns the former church building at 38 East Main Street, from which it has been operating, according to Fierl.

The director said she is trying to identify and compile a list of individual food pantries in the Center’s service area to help residents connect with the limited number of other food outlets.

Only two primary distributors in county
The Center and ACCORD have been the two primary food distribution outlets in the county, with the Belmont organization, in addition to its central food supply, hosting pop up pantries at different times in various Central and Eastern Allegany County locations, including Wellsville, Alfred, Belmont and Angelica.

Fierl said food distribution needs have increased during the prime of COVID and since, with a shortage of volunteers also being an issue.

Required telephone registrations by recipients for food pantry distributions, which start the week prior to dissemination, often are full within hours.

A map of various food distribution outlets served by Foodlink in Rochester, the hub of the emergency food system in a 10-county service area, is available at https://bit.ly/43OyGsO, although some find the resource difficult to navigate.