On August 15th, 2023, Compassion Coalition hosted a symposium addressing the critical challenges of food insecurity and poverty in New York. Many leaders gathered from multiple government agencies, nonprofits, businesses and communities to discuss these challenges and how the Bargain Grocery/Compassion Coalition model can be a profound catalyst to see changes in NY state.
The morning began with participants gathering at Bargain Grocery, a pioneering market that tackles food waste while making nutritious options affordable. Attendees embarked on a guided tour through the bustling market, where they saw shelves laden with products that might otherwise have been discarded due to impending expiration dates. The time highlighted how Bargain Grocery sources surplus goods, reducing food waste and ensuring quality food reaches the most needy.
After gaining valuable insights from the Bargain Grocery tour, attendees were transported to the impressive headquarters of Compassion Coalition. The expansive 143,000-square-foot warehouse is a recent addition to the organization’s facilities.
The symposium officially began with Susan Zimet, NYS Food & Anti-Hunger Policy Coordinator, speaking to the attendees. She spoke passionately about the need for collaborative efforts to combat food insecurity and poverty with more models like Bargain Grocery/Compassion Coalition. “Bargain Grocery is a model that takes care of the whole person,” she concluded.
One of the day’s highlights was hearing from developer Kevin Bette, the president of First Columbia. He is developing the next Bargain Grocery in Troy, NY. He spoke about seeing the community transform and how he learned from Susan Zimet about Bargain Grocery. He talked about why he chose to work with Pastor Servello and Bargain Grocery/Compassion Coalition to develop a store in Troy, NY stating, “This the the answer…serving people with dignity is the answer.”
Natasha Pernicka, Executive Director at The Alliance for a Hunger Free NY and The Food Pantries for the Capital District, when interviewed after the symposim said “I love the Bargain Grocery/Compassion Coalition model because one of the largest challenges that we have in the charitable food system is the supply chain, and having access to healthy fresh foods that people want. The dignity that people can have when they are able to get bargain groceries is that they are able to CHOOSE specific items that they want to eat.”
Crystal Collete from New York’s Office For The Aging commented during the symposium, “I am blown away by the grocery store and I was really fascinated to see that over half of the shoppers at the grocery store are over the age of 50. It doesn’t surprise me, older adults/fresh local foods. Older adults want to shop in their local communities.”
The symposium, beginning with a tour of Bargain Grocery and culminating with a glimpse into Compassion Coalition’s expansive operations, offered a comprehensive view of the innovative solutions pursued to combat food insecurity and poverty. As participants left inspired and equipped with fresh insights, it was evident that the day’s discussions would catalyze ongoing collaboration and change in New York’s fight against these pressing issues.
Many thanks to new Compassion Coalition board member Linda LaViolette and Susan Zimet for their work to bring this symposium together. They have been tirelessly working to champion Compassion Coalition and Bargain Grocery.