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Feed Our Vets Founder Defends Pantry And Outlines Plans For A New Location

Feed Our Vets finds new home in Utica, NY
Justin Sullivan, Getty Images

The Feed Our Vets food pantry is defending itself against allegations that they attract a ‘nefarious’ crowd and shouldn’t be located at the doorstep to the City of Utica.

Navy veteran and retired postmaster, Rich Synek is founder of the organization and joined WIBX First News with Keeler in the Morning to talk about the controversy.

”I noticed there was a needed service for veterans,” Synek said.

”It’s the only pantry in the US dedicated to feeding homeless and hungry veterans, their families and children. We let them shop for a week’s worth of food in our pantry.”

Currently Feed Our Vets is located at 205 Genesee Street in Utica, and another pantry in Watertown. Synek says they started shopping around for a new location upon world that their current building was for sale. But, that’s no longer the case, he said.

”We need our own home, we need our own building. We were evicted from our previous location, which is also a veterans organization. They asked us to pay rent and I thought it was more important to buy food than pay rent.”

However, other business owners on the block feel a food pantry, albeit for veterans, is not the right tenant for the city’s ‘gateway’, which is also a focal part of revitalization and future development.

Synek says the current home of the National Distance Running Hall of Fame (114 Genesee Street – the area also known as Bagg’s Square) is a good location because it’s on the bus line and is a beautiful building. Pending a loan approval, Synek says the building could house the pantry along with a veterans recreation center and a military museum.

The city is not losing anything as far as taxes, he says. The National Distance Running Hall of Fame, which plans a relocation of its own after this year’s Boilermaker in July, is also a not for profit, he said.

”We actually have World War II veterans. They have died but their wives still come in.” There are also some active duty veterans served by the organization, especially up in Watertown, he said.

At its current location, there are no crowds, no prostitutes, no crime, Synek said.

”I’m sure we have some of our vets with mental illness and homeless. I don’t ask, but I’m sure we do. We’re not open everyday. We do loading and unloading of trucks early in the morning and late at night,” he said, adding that Feed Our Vets distributed 48,000 pounds of food last year.

There is a town hall meeting on the issue Thursday night (4/25/13) at 5:30 in the Council Chambers at Utica City Hall.

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