Albany Medical Center Department of Pediatrics establishes food pantry to assist low-income families

Shayna Hill wanted to address the food insecurity issues facing low-income families frequently walking through the doors of Albany Medical Center’s pediatric specialty outpatient clinics. As the new case manager in Pediatrics, she often encountered parents struggling financially to meet basic needs of feeding their children. But the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back for Hill, the mother of a 3-year-old son, occurred when a pediatrician told her about a patient who was 10 pounds underweight.

“The doctor said it had nothing to do with their diagnosis and everything to do with just not having enough food at home,” said Hill, who at that time could only provide an informational handout about local food pantries. “How am I supposed to send a family home with just a flier when potentially they don’t have anything to eat that night?”

To address the problem and with the support of local supermarket chains and private donations, Hill and Jenavieve Steinbach, mental health counselor, established a food pantry last October to handle the immediate needs of families. Hill tracks and maintains a small inventory of nonperishable foods, diapers, baby wipes, feminine hygiene products and toiletry items stored in her office. Honest Weight Food Co-op started the ball rolling with a $250 gift card. Price Chopper/Market 32 also stepped up to the plate with a $500 gift card. Staff have donated canned goods and pasta. Once the food pantry has been open six months, she said they can partner with the Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York to purchase supplies at deeply discounted prices.

Katrena McCrary, who currently lives in a local homeless shelter with her four children, relies on the food pantry for microwavable, easy-to-prepare meals like rice, beans, cereal and soup. “The food pantry has helped us in so many ways,” she said, citing Hill’s ability to listen and her attentiveness to her children’s dietary restrictions. “Albany Medical Center has really stepped up; they’ve been fighting for us, and I really appreciate it.”

For more information about making a donation to the food pantry, contact Shayna Hill at 518-262-5128 or [email protected].