Pleading the Pantry’s Case

Seeking Needed Support from Tompkins County’s Community Recovery Fund for Enfield’s Interests

by Enfield Councilperson Robert Lynch

December 21, 2022

No, it’ didn’t earn any votes of support.  But what does it matter.  It was doing the right thing.

Tuesday night, December 20, I stood before the Tompkins County Legislature and pled the case of three Enfield organizations each deserving a slice of Tompkins County’s mammoth $6.5 Million Community Recovery Fund.

Enfield got shut out.  We didn’t get a penny.  We should have gotten our share.  We’re the poorest town in Tompkins County.  And it’s easy for others to forget we have needs.

I had a precious three minutes.  So I chose to focus on just one of our three requests, the largest; that for a new Enfield Food Pantry.  Here’s what I said:


Good Evening. Robert Lynch, Councilperson, Town of Enfield:

Many deserving applicants will tonight seek Community Recovery funding.  I’m here to support three from Enfield:  Enfield Food Distribution, Enfield Community Council, and the Enfield Volunteer Fire Company.  None were recommended by your committee.  I believe each should have been.  I’ll speak to one in particular.

Imagine you’re hungry; I mean, really hungry; no, not just missing a meal or two.  You’ve gone for weeks on Ramen noodles, Rice Krispies and junk food.  So have your kids.  You can’t pay Wegmans’ prices. You either want to buy food—you have to buy good food or pay the rent.  And without rent, you’re homeless.  Food insecurity is real.  Food insecurity hurts.  Food insecurity happens here.  And food insecurity has been worsened by the pandemic.  The Enfield Food Pantry has become Tompkins County’s first line of defense against food insecurity.

Our pantry needs a new home.  On your committee’s first vote, it got just two votes out of six.  It never got a second look.  That was a mistake.  Tonight, your Legislature holds the power to correct that mistake.

Don’t think of this as just an Enfield food pantry.  It’s truly Tompkins County’s food pantry.  It’s the only one locally with the strength of volunteers and the depth of dedication to operate three days a week, every week.  We serve county-wide populations.  And unlike most others, we handle meat, produce and dairy.  We stand alone.  We stand proud.  And our freezer’s too small; and our cooler’s too small too.

Matthew 14; 13 through 21; speaks of how Jesus fed the multitude with just five loaves and two fish.  Well, in Enfield, Pantry Director Jean Owens does that every week.  We feed more than 500 families, often different families, each weekend—625 families the weekend before Thanksgiving.  We do it out of a 1948 fire house, cramped, outdated, and cold.  In summer, we distribute produce outdoors in the blistering sun and driving rain.  Winters, patrons squeeze between bags of potatoes piles of carrots, and us.

We have the food.  We have the volunteers.  What we need is a new home to serve people better.  You hold the purse and the power to help us.

I know your committee tried to do the right thing.  They meant well.  And as I told Randy Brown at our Town Board meeting last week, the problem is systemic.  Numbers mattered more than people.  Too many calculators and spreadsheets; too few hugs and tears.  I so wish you’d invited each of our major applicants to plead her case personally for a brief ten minutes.  Because passion can never leap from the printed page the way it can spring from the heart, passing through the lips of a dedicated advocate. 

Please, I believe Enfield Food Distribution’s application speaks best to the purpose of this fund.  It’s transformative.  It’s purposed for people.  And it’ll do good. 


Now, What I said about the Community Recovery Fund before the Enfield Town Board:

“It was not a pleasant meeting”

Enfield Councilperson Robert Lynch, addressing the Enfield Town Board during Privilege of the Floor Comments, December 27th, discussing an earlier meeting of the Tompkins County Legislature and its decisions on distribution of Tompkins County’s Community Recovery Fund:

“I just wanted to take a couple minutes to talk about nothing that happened at this Board, but something that happened about six or seven miles away to the east.  And that was a week ago, downtown at the Tompkins County Legislature.  They had a decision to make, and they made it.  They appropriated nearly $6 Million in money under the Community Recovery Program.  The Town of Enfield and its agencies that applied didn’t get a thin dime of that.

“And I could sit here and pontificate for three minutes about what that means for Enfield and what that means for what some people in Tompkins County Government and their consultants think of the Town of Enfield.  But I’ll just put the words of our—one of our elected County legislators, Randy Brown, on the record.  Because he spoke up in favor of Enfield and his own Town of Newfield that also got slighted in many respects

“He (Brown) said at that meeting, I quote, ‘Enfield is completely ignored by the County; Newfield, completely ignored by the County,’ In terms of government funding.  He continued, ‘Nothing happens there.’

“Brown told colleagues that in Enfield, quote, ‘They’re pinching pennies every day; the poorest district in the county.  They’re buying used equipment ‘cause that’s all they can afford.  And yet nothing got funded.  In recognition of all the problems in the county, you didn’t even think about Enfield and Newfield in my mind.’

“He went on in that meeting, quote, ‘I respect what the committee did,’ —that is, the Advisory Committee that made its recommendations and did not  recommend Enfield be funded—He said, ‘I respect what the committee did, and this is definitely water that’s never been paddled through before,’ Brown told legislators moments before he cast his lone dissenting vote.  And he continued, ‘But I feel that the committee didn’t even understand the transformative processes that Newfield and Enfield attempted to do.’

“’Enfield is feeling the exact same way,’ as Newfield is, Brown said.  ‘They’re on their own,’ end of quote.

“There may be opportunities for some applicants, probably most likely the Enfield Community Council, to get something, because there’s one big project in Newfield which would draw about $500,000 in Community Recovery funds.  It’s the Second Wind Cottages proposal.  It’s become controversial down in Newfield.  The Newfield Town Board has resolved against funding that particular proposal.  I’m not going to get into Second Wind tonight.  That’s really not the purpose of what I said.  But if there is money left over, if Second Wind is taken out, of if the County Legislature decides later, next year, to put more money in the pot to fund agencies, we may get some funding—for ECC, maybe the Fire Company, and maybe even the Food Pantry.  We’ll see.

“That’s all I have to say on this.  But it was not a pleasant meeting one week ago.  I attended it.  And Randy Brown spoke up.  And he was about the only one.  And I’ll leave it there.”