TROY — Since 2017, local musicians, Bob Gamache and Mark Emanatian have worked together to raise awareness about a serious epidemic that continues to be an on-going problem today; hunger. According to Feeding America, more than 2.67 million children and adults in New York State are food insecure. More than 13.5 percent of the state’s population doesn’t have enough food to meet their basic nutritional needs. The individuals that are most affected by hunger include working families, elderly people, disabled, individuals that work less than minimum wage, veterans, children, even TSA workers and other federal workers that were affected by the government shutdown.
From being in local bands as Soul Sky, The Ernie Williams Band, and the 317, Emanatian is also an activist who has always given his time back to the local community especially during a time of need. From putting on a rally for Momentive workers during their 2016 strike to his involvement with Foodstock, Emanatian has been hugely involved in volunteering his time at community pantries. Since 1992, Emanatian has volunteered at the Oakwood Community Center in Troy. According to Emanatian in a recent interview with Steve Pierce from the Sanctuary for Independent Media this past Thursday, over 60 families go to the community center and its food pantry every Saturday from 9-11:00 a.m. to receive their food for their families. A representative from the family can go to the food pantry once a month to pick up their food. If they can’t pick up their food on Saturday, they would have to wait until Monday to pick up their food at the Unity House.
In Rensselaer County alone, there are a total of 18 food pantries, seven of which are in the City of Troy, and there are 64 total pantries in Rensselaer, Saratoga, Schenectady, and Albany County. Having these local food pantries open to individuals that require food for their daily life is vital to a community. Food is a “pervasive daily need”, according to Pierce, and that is certainly indeed true. With rising prices in apartment rent and other necessities, it can become difficult for a family to afford the things that they need in their life, sometimes even having to choose between acquiring their food or paying for their basic utilities. A lack of food can result in having poor health and children and adults not performing well both in school or in the workforce.
Gamache first approached Emanatian with an idea of creating a benefit event that would feature live music. Originally, Gamache wanted to donate the money that would be raised to the Rensselaer Food Pantry. Emanatian suggested that in order to make the biggest impact, they would go to the Regional Food Bank and The Food Pantries for the Capital District. By making this donation, the organization would be able to distribute to other local pantries while assisting their community members in time of need. For every dollar that is donated, $6 dollars of that money is matched and could go towards purchasing a box of rice and can goods that a family could eat as a meal. At Foodstock 4, $1,700 dollars and 54 pounds of food were raised for the organization through the generous support of residents, music fans, and the local musicians that have donated their time to perform for a great cause at the Rustic Barn Pub.
Since March 2017, Foodstock has been held every March and November during the year. Since its inception, the event is held during pivotal months. With November and December being the months when people are the most giving during the holiday season, it was important for Gamache and Emanatian to have the event during the months when the food pantries need food, donations, and when families are in the most need of food. Each event that was held at the Rustic Barn Pub has raised money for the food pantries. The first ever Foodstock raised $1,400 dollars. Foodstock 4 raised $1,700 dollars and 54 pounds of food that were donated to the cause.
Foodstock 5, held Sunday afternoon at the Rustic Barn Pub, was a huge success. About $1,300 dollars (not including online donations) was donated to the Food Pantries of the Capital District and the Regional Food Bank. Foodstock 5, featuring Johnny Goodman as the official MC, also included the musical lineup of Brian Kane, The Tyes, Bleak Little World Duo (featuring Nicole Suto and Bob Donald), Mike Mc Mann and Luke Mc Namee, Soul Sky (featuring guest musicians Joe Mele, Michael Kelley, John Donvito, and McNamee), Nite Train, and Lou’s Blues.
From the acoustic strumming of Kane’s guitar and Shawn Carrol’s harmonic sounds, The Tyes bringing in some magic tricks into their musical set, Bleak Little World Duo’s mix of classics & original tunes, to McMann & McNamee’s unique twist to Justin Bieber’s ‘Love Yourself’ and ‘The Star Spangled Banner’, to the electric soul-searing blues that was felt from Soul Sky, Nite Train Band, and Lou’s Blues that had spectators captivated and eager to dance. Every group raised the roof high in each set through their positive energy and their passion that they had for the music all afternoon. It was exciting and nice to see these performers join forces and take their time to perform and raise awareness about the need to stop hunger and support the food pantries that are there to alleviate the hunger that continues to be a growing issue in our society.
Save the date to attend Foodstock 6 on Sunday, Nov. 3, at the Rustic Barn Pub. For more information on the Food Pantries of the Capital District and where you can donate or volunteer, you can go to their website at http://www.thefoodpantries.org/.