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New Canton Neighborhood Center Director hopes to expand food program

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CANTON - The Canton Neighborhood Center’s new director would like to expand public participation in a monthly food program that’s open to all community residents regardless of their income level.

Leacy M. DuPre, 22, has replaced Lisa M. VanKirk at the neighborhood center, 5 West St.

Before graduating in December from SUNY Potsdam, Ms. DuPre worked as an intern at the Potsdam Neighborhood Center, which provided experience she’s now using in her new position. She was a community health major and received a minor in sexual health.

She also interned at the North Country Prenatal, Perinatal Council in Watertown and volunteered at Renewal House, an organization that provides housing for victims of domestic violence.

“I’ve always wanted to do this kind of work,” Ms. DuPre said. “I like interacting with people. I’m making a lot of connections.”

She is working to promote Food Sense, a program allowing community members to order packages of food once a month for $15.50. The boxes contain an estimated $30 worth of food including meat and fresh produce. The food is supplied and delivered by the Food Bank of Central New York, a not-for-profit organization based in Syracuse that works to eliminate hunger through nutritious food distribution.

Last month, 37 packages were ordered through the Canton Neighborhood Center and Miss DuPre would like more people to try out the Food Sense program.

“I’d like to let people know it’s not income based,” she said.

Orders for April packages are due Monday. The list for April includes Italian meatballs, veal patties, pollock fillets, Italian sausage, ground chicken, ziti, spaghetti sauce, frozen pizza snacks, peach slices, carrots and fresh produce. The special additions for April are chicken drumsticks, 5 pounds for $4.75; Italian meatballs, 5 pounds for $11; cod fillets, $7; mozzarella sticks, 2 pounds for $5; white cheddar pasta bake, 4.5 pounds for $13 and stuffed peppers, 5 pounds for $11.75.

Besides offering the Food Sense Program, the Canton Neighborhood Center also operates a food pantry for income-eligible families and a thrift shop that sells gently-used clothing, shoes, some household items, books and toys.

Participating families are provided with food packages once a month and three emergency packages a year. The monthly packages are supposed to provide enough food to feed each family member for three days. Last month, 174 families participated. Besides Canton, the Canton Neighborhood Center assists residents from Clare, Crary Mills, DeGrasse, DeKalb, Hermon, Pyrites, Rensselaer Falls and Russell.

The neighborhood center is also participating in the Canton Bear backpack program, which provides food items to students during vacation breaks and weekends.

Donations to the food pantry and thrift shop are always welcome. Dairy products, milk powder and maternity clothes are in short supply. The Neighborhood Center is open from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday. It’s closed the first Friday of every month and major holidays. The Canton Neighborhood Center can be reached by email at cantonnc@slccdp.org or by calling 386-3541.

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