Showing posts with label Syracuse. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Syracuse. Show all posts

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

How Africans Are Helping Refugees Settle In America

Habiba showing some of her teaching aides
By Paul Shalala in Syracuse, New York

Every year, the city of Syracuse in northern New York state receives dozens of African immigrants who run away from their countries for various reasons.

Some of these immigrants are refugees who run away from wars while some leave their countries for economic reasons.

Settling in the United States is a huge challenge especially for immigrants who do not speak English and those who have no relatives.

This challenge is even made worse by having no education qualification to help sustain your life.
But one immigrant had an idea which is now helping thousands of African immigrants to integrate in Syracuse.

Haji Adan, a Somali immigrant who came to the United States in 2006, came up with an idea to help fellow African immigrants settle well in wider society.

With the help of a few friends, they formed the Somali Bantu Community Association which has over the past decade helped African refugees find jobs and settle in society.

“When I came to the US, it was difficult to live here. Life was not easy because there was no one to help us,” said Mr Adan who is the association’s Executive Director.

Mr Adan says through volunteer work and the help of various donors, his association is now among the largest in terms of helping refugees settle in the city.

“We are doing all this without pay. We are actually paying back to the community,” said Mr Adan as he pointed at the newly refurbished classroom where English lessons are conducted for African immigrants.

He adds that though the association was formed to cater for African immigrants, the mandate has now changed and the association is rebranding itself to work with immigrants from around the world.

Haji Adan holding a certificate he earned for hard work
Free English lessons are offered to immigrants and children have the opportunity to also learn from Grades three to seven.

Through its after school program, the association also conducts graduations for those who are successful.

30 year Habiba Boru is one of the volunteer teachers at the Somali Bantu Community Association.

A resident of Syracuse for the past 16 years, Habiba says she grew up in a refugee camp in Kenya.

As this blogger interacted with her, she fluently spoke Somali and Swahili.

“Am a mother of four and I came here 16 years ago. Am now an American citizen but one day I wish to go back to Kenya because that’s where I grew up from,” she said.

Apart from teaching English lessons, she also connects some of the immigrants to companies were they can find jobs.

“We have a job readiness program here and we help immigrants find jobs. Sometimes it is easy to find them jobs but sometimes it is difficult if they do not speak English. But most employers tell us that African immigrants are hard working.”

One of the companies which the association partners with in finding employment for immigrants is Wal-Mart, the American large scale retailer.

The company has so far employed a number of immigrants who have been able to support their families financially.

However, not every immigrant finds it easy to get employed.

Habiba says there has been resentment with immigrants who wear Islamic attire at work.
Some of the association's graduands

She says some employers do not feel comfortable but Wal-Mart allows workers to wear its uniforms above Islamic attire.

As part of its rebranding exercise, the association is also helping immigrants acquire visas and drivers’ licences.

According to photos and postings on its Facebook page, the association conducts social events such as football tournaments and field trips to allow African immigrants interact and socialise.

Through various applications, the Somali Bantu Community Association has been able to sustain itself through grants from various institutions.

Friday, 15 July 2016

Poverty In America: Its Effect On High School Pass rate In Syracuse

Wayne O'Connor with some of the students at Hillside Center
By Paul Shalala in Syracuse, New York

The city of Syracuse in northern New York state has one of the poorest communities in the whole of the United States of America.

According to latest statistics from the US Census Bureau and the Onondaga County, Syracuse grapples with poverty which is mainly concentrated in the south of the city where African-Americans and Hispanics live.

This poverty has had a lot of impact especially in the number of criminal activities and gang related violence in the area.

Just in the past three weeks, three people have been shot dead and several injured, forcing the county officials and the City’s Police Department to hold a press conference to assure residents of their safety.

Poverty has also not spared the education sector.

According to the US Census Bureau’s 2010-2014 American Community Survey 5-Year Profiles, Syracuse has a high school pass rate of 80.1% which is lower than the national pass rate currently standing at 86.3%.

The civil society has joined county and state education departments in fighting the drop in the pass rate.

According to Wayne O’Connor, the Executive Director of the privately run Hillside College and Career Center, poverty has had a great impact on the lower pass rate among high school students in the city.

“Each year we enrol 1,000 high school students who we mentor and teach in various subjects in order for them to pass the exams. These are pupils who suffer poverty and have behavioural attitudes. They are brought here by their parents or they may come by themselves,” said Mr O’Connor.

He adds that apart from helping the students pass the examinations, his non profit which has been giving the service to students for over nine years, also helps the students get jobs and make rights career choices.

Several volunteer teachers and mentors operate from the center and help the students, mainly from poor families, prepare for exams.

The Hillside College and Career Center has an annual budget of $350 million and it works with students and parents to ensure that the students adequately prepare for the exams.

“Among the students who pass through our center, 98% progress to colleges and universities. We also offer scholarships to deserving students who come from poverty stricken homes.”

Mr O’Connor told a group of Syracuse-based 2016 Mandela Washington fellows that pupils usually come to the center in the afternoon after their regular classes in their respective schools and get coached by the youth advocates.

He said at the center, the students are given food so that they can concentrate on their studies and have a free mind.

“Our calendar year starts in September and ends in June. We also offer sports so that the students are kept busy physically,” said Mr O’Connor.

As part of the institution’s plan to motivate the learners, twice a year it organises events where parents come to celebrate the success of their children who are crowned as School Ambassadors based on their achievements.

According to Hillside College and Career Center records, 75% of the students are African-Americans, 12% Hispanics and the remainder is Caucasians.

The center plans to increase the enrolment to 2,000 in the coming years to help increase the pass rate in the city.

Some of the center's former students have even been engaged as mentors for the current students.

Part of the students at the center are sponsored by the Central New York Community Foundation through scholarships.


The foundation, which currently has assets worth $172 million, spends huge sums of money in literacy programs to help reduce the low pass rate in Syracuse.

"Half of the students in Syracuse do not graduate to college and this maybe because of poverty. So as the foundation, we give grants to non profits for literacy, we also fund institutions like Hillside to ensure that our students graduate and grab future opportunities," said Central New York Community Foundation Director of Research and Community Initiatives Frank Ridzi.

Speaking when he addressed Syracuse-based 2016 Mandela Washington fellows visited his office, Mr Ridzi said 14.1% of the foundation's annual grants goes for scholarships for poor students through programs like Say Yes To Education.

On other initiative the foundation has funded over the years to help poor black students is the Saturday Academy which brings together African-American students on Saturdays to be mentored by teachers and improve their literacy.

A civil society organisation called 100 Men of Syracuse won the $100,000 grant to execute the project which so far is proving beneficial to the learners.   

Sunday, 10 July 2016

Environment-Friendly Farming And Use Of GMOs By U.S. Farmers

By Paul Shalala in Homer, New York
Cattle at McMahon's Zacres farm in Homer, New York

As the debate over the usage of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) rages on in Africa, farmers in the United States think GMOs are good and have no effect whatsoever.

In the small village of Homer in Cortland County, northern New York state, is the family-owned farm called McMahon's Zacres owned by brothers Michael and Peter McMahon.

The duo bought the 2,200 acres farm from their father in 1986 and since then, they have run it as a dairy farm and invested over US$10 million.

During a recent visit to the farm by this blogger, the owners revealed that the farm has at any given time 700 fully grown cows and 700 calves.

Being a dairy farm, all bulls are sold off and calves are only milked for 32 months before being sold off as beef.

Due to lack of workers across the United States who can at a farm, Zacres employs five Mexican immigrants who milk the cows three times a day using some of the latest high tech dairy equipment.
A Mexican immigrant milking cattle

One of the Mexicans found on duty was able to milk 150 cattle within an hour.

"Americans don't want to be dirty. We cannot find anyone willing to do this job, that is why we employ these Mexicans because they are hardworking," said Peter McMahon, a co-owner of the farm. 

The workers are also responsible for sweeping the bans three times a day after every milking session.

The cattle is fed by maize grown at the farm and only a few nutrients are bought to supplement the feed. 

According to Peter, the farm uses genetically modified organisms in cultivating maize which is used as feed for the milk producing cattle.
Peter McMahon

“We grow our own corn (maize) here to feed all the cattle. We use GMOs in all our fields and this goes well with our crops because they do not kill any organisms. We will continue using them, we will not stop because they change to carbon dioxide after 30 days,” said Peter.

When asked if the GMOs were harmful to the environment, Peter said its actually non-GMOs which affect the environment and kill wild animals.

“A long time ago we used pesticides to protect our corn. One such pesticide was toxic. Birds would collect and swallow it. They would fly a few meters in the sky and later drop dead. But the GMOs are friendly to the environment because they melt and disappear."

He adds that at the time they used to apply pesticides, worms used to die in large numbers but now they are plenty in the fields.

One of the maize fields at the farm
The farm has also adopted environmentally friendly practices due to the high number of residue that comes from the cattle.

The 1, 400 cattle at the farm produce enormous amount of dung on a daily basis and mishandling it can cause environmental problems.

Workers at the farm collect the dung and store it in a storage family before its dried and scattered in the fields.

According to company records, the farm produces eight million gallons of manure annually and if discharged in nearby rivers and dams, it could pollute both the water and the environment.

“We work with an environmental consultant who regularly comes to taste our soil for levels of manure. We also store the manure and dispose it off in environmentally friendly areas,” said Peter.

He also said that every three months, workers pour lime across the farm to neutralise the manure once it is disposed off.

The company has also adopted a policy of not planting maize near rivers and dams to avoid chemicals flowing from the fields to the water bodies.

The farm is affiliated to environmental bodies
This farm is a major producer of Greek Yoghurt in New York state and employs a fulltime nutritionist who looks after the cattle's feed.

Its environmental programmes have even been approved by the Cortland County Agricultural Environmental Management which promotes soil and water conservation.

At the state level, McMahon’s Zacres is a member of the New York State Cattle Health Assurance Program which promotes animal health, food safety and environmental stewardship.

The farm works hand in hand with Cornell University whose extension officers monitor the farm’s activities and ensure standards are followed and animals are kept in good condition.

The university, which is located in the neighbouring city of Uthica, is the only major learning facility in new York state which specialises in agriculture.

And in neighbouring Onondaga County, farmers and county agencies are working together to protect the picturesque Skeneateles Lake from pollution.
Skeneateles Lake

The lake is the only source of water for Syracuse, the third largest city in New York state.

Over 50 farms surround the lake which is estimated to hold about 400 million gallons of water.

On a daily basis, the Syracuse Department of Water Affairs pumps 40 million of gallons to the city which is over 100 kilometers away.

“On a daily basis we treat this water. We use chlorine and UV system to purify it. We pump 40 million gallons of water daily to Syracuse and it takes six hours for it to reach the city,” said Mike Lynn, Skeneateles Water Plant Manager.

The lake has been supplying water to Syracuse for over a century.

Skeneateles area has 50 percent of its land covered by forests while 40 percent is farmland.

Authorities in the area are now partnering with farmers to ensure they do not pollute the lake which is also a tourist spot for people who enjoy water sports and fishing.

“In the past years, we have spent over US$40 million to preserve the water and protect it from pollution. We work with 42 farmers and ensure they comply with environmental guidelines,” said Rich Abbott from the Syracuse Water Department who has worked with farmers in the area for 30 years.
Mike Lynn

Mr Abbott said county inspectors tour all farms to ensure there is no discharge of effluent in the lake and make sure all farmers follow laid down regulations.

He also said farmers in the area strictly practice crop rotation to ensure chemicals do not spoil the soil.

“To protect the lake from farming activities, all farmers have planted trees between the fields and the lake as a buffer zone.”

The Skeneateles Watershed Agricultural Program and the Syracuse Water Department work together to safeguard the lake from polluters.

According to the Syracuse Water Department, Skeneateles lake is fed by over 150 rivers and tributaries.

The lake is one of the 11 so-called Finger Lakes which flow from southern New York state and stretch northwards closer to the Canadian border.

They are called Finger Lakes because they look like fingers on the map. 

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Poverty In America: Military Veterans, Health And Homelessness

By Paul Shalala in Syracuse, New York
The Syracuse VA Hospital

The United States is referred to as the land of opportunities, the land of plenty and the land of the free.

Americans pride themselves with so many inventions, an admirable system of governance and the largest economy.

With one of the modest and well funded militaries in the world, the US recruits thousands of people into its armed forces per year.

At the same time, thousands more are discharged due to age, injury or bad behavior.

Across the United States, millions of former soldiers (veterans) are re-integrated into society while others who cannot afford housing are kept by the federal government in some facilities.

"We currently have 21 million veterans from the various departments under the military," said Robert McLean, a Public Affairs Officer at the Syracuse Veterans Administration (VA) Hospital.

The hospital cares for former servicemen from the 13 counties of northern and western New York State.

Mr McLean, a former US Marine, says the Syracuse VA Hospital has an annual budget of $290 million, most of which goes towards paying of salaries for the 1, 700 employees.

The hospital offers various health services such as behavioral change, counselling, dental care, spine care, post traumatic stress, mental treatment and most illnesses connected with war.

Mr McLean, who recently took a group of 2016 Mandela Washington Fellows on a tour of the multi-story facility, revealed that a number of veterans who are homeless and poor are kept and cared for at the hospital.

"We are keeping a number of veterans as you can see. These are people who can not manage to feed themselves. We have a room where they watch TV, a room which is well decorated to reflect a military facility so that it can suit their previous life," said Mr McLean, pointing to a wall which has pictures of fighter jets, US flags and soldiers.

For poor soldiers who can not afford to be treated at expensive hospitals, VA hospitals is their home until the day they will breathe their last.

But for veterans who are poor but still energetic, the Department of Veterans Affairs has a program were they source for land and build houses for the former soldiers and resettle them.

During the tour, this blogger saw a number of resident veterans who were confined to wheelchairs but were actively moving around.
McLean briefing the Mandela Washington Fellows

The veterans have another open room where they play sports to keep them fit.

On an annual basis, an average of 47,000 veterans are treated at the Syracuse VA Hospital.

The Department of Veterans Affairs runs several of such hospitals across the US and offers these same services to veterans within the 50 states.

The department has an annual budget of $169 billion and according to Mr McLean, it is the second largest US Cabinet agency.

Apart from health care, the department also provides benefits to veterans, handles burials and runs cemeteries where veterans are buried.

Friday, 24 June 2016

American Public Broadcasting: A Possible Model For Africa

By Paul Shalala in Syracuse, New York
Entrance to WCNY Media Complex


Public Broadcasting Service is a tricky sector in most African countries due to the many interests from various sectors such as politics, tradition and business.

The African model is usually accused of being biased, inefficient, being perceived as unpopular and having boring programmes.

The fact that the state funds these public service media institutions make them targets for opposition criticism.

However, in the American context, public broadcasting is a local and community oriented concept which was developed to help people access information in their localities.

Despite being funded by the federal or state governments, public radio and TV stations across the USA do not air or propagate government policies or programs.

Their mandate is the local community where they are based and all their news and programming is local.

On Thursday, i visited WCNY, a local public service TV and radio station which covers central New York state.

The station was established 50 years ago by the New York state government but it calls itself a non profit organisation and is exempted from paying tax.

The station runs five TV channels and four radio stations

After a tour of the station and having a chat with some of its staff, this blogger decided to write about the concept of public broadcasting service in America.

No Political Adverts

WCNY is located in the center of New York state where politics is part of life and political advertising is very lucrative.

Actually, one of the four radio stations broadcasts from Albany, the capital of New State.

However, the station does not allow political adverts or any other form of campaigning.

This allows the station to remain neutral of any political influence.

But during election times, WCNY hosts a number of radio and TV programs were candidates from various political parties participate as a panel to articulate their policies and inform the public what issues they are bringing to the public.

"Public Broadcasting regulations do not allow us to broadcast political adverts. We however give a platform to political parties to reach out to our communities through various programs during elections," said Debbie Stack, WCNY Director for Education and Community Engagement.

She explains that they do not at all receive pressure or requests for broadcasts from the US federal government.

"We are funded by government but we do not have a feed for news from the federal government. We also diversify in other areas to raise revenue," she added.

Community Engagement

According to Ms Stack, Public Broadcasting Service was established in order to help local communities have easy access to information.

She says due to this idea, several of such stations were established across the United States and they concentrate their programming and news to local content and national affairs.

"Here in central New York, our community is largely native Americans, blacks and Hispanics. That is the society we strive to serve on a daily basis."

She says several radio and TV programs specially tailored for the community are either suggested by the community itself or conceptualised by the station.

"We have a radio program called 'Read out Radio' where a host reads headlines and important stories from local newspapers to the community. This helps our listeners have a feel of what is happening in their locality."

The radio also occassionally gives out radio receivers to residents in far flung areas to help them keep in touch with their favourite radio programmes.

Members of the community who are talented in radio or TV also volunteer to take part in the programming.

Poverty and Crime

Syracuse city is ranked as the poorest city in the US, according to a 2015 survey by a university Professor from Rutgers University and data from the US Census Bureau.

Poverty is common in the city due to the closure of several industries over the years and the increase in joblessness.

"This city is poor. We have a lot of poverty here. And due to poverty, crime is on the upswing," said Ms Stack.

WCNY and the Syracuse Police Department occassionally organise neighbourhood meetings to discuss issues of security and how to make the community secure.

The station also runs a weekly show dedicated to public affairs and it is intended to bring local issues and deal with the concerns raised by the public.

Multi-Racial Workforce

Due to the multi-racial nature of the inhabitants of Syracuse, WCNY has also employed a diverse workforce to match the needs of the community.

The city is dominated by Whites, African-Americans, Hispanics and a few Native Americans (First Nation people).

Debbie Stack (in red) addressing visitors
At present, the station has several interns, one of whom is a Kenyan-born lady who has brought the 'African' flavour to the institution.

Funding

The station is funded in various ways.

It receives funding from the federal government for its operations.

And being a member-driven institution, WCNY allows members of the community to be part of it by way of purchasing membership cards.

The station also carries out other ventures like selling (subscription) of its corporate magazine WCNY Connect.

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Poverty In America: How The Church Is Feeding The Poor

By Paul Shalala in Syracuse, New York
John Stopper
It is real, it is there and people are going hungry every day in America.

Every time we think about the United States, we imagine a society where everyone has food, everyone drives and everyone is enjoying life.

But that is not the case, there is poverty in the United States of America.

But not everyone agrees that some people in the richest country in the world, go to bed on an empty stomach.

Even well known researchers and pundits deny that poverty exists in the country.

Writing in Forbes magazine on October 3, 2015, Tim Worstall, a fellow at the Adam Smith Institute in London said: “"Paul Theroux’s latest book is a travelogue across the Deep South. And in it, according to his introduction to it in the NY Times, he asserts that said Deep South has been impoverished by the capitalist plutocrats offshoring all the jobs. That this isn’t in fact how an economy works is easy enough to forgive, for many people hold the same, incorrect, opinion. However, the other part of Theroux’s argument, about the existence of poverty in America, is less easy to pass by. Simply because he is a well traveled man, he has seen real absolute poverty up front and personal. And he should indeed know that nothing like that at all actually exists in the United States."

However, the reality on the ground is that there is a silent minority of beggars, homeless people and those doing what Americans call ‘minimum wage jobs’ who cannot manage to support themselves.

According to a report entitled Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2014 by the U.S. Census Bureau, 47 million people in the USA were living with poverty in 2014.

This means that the poverty rate for that year was at 15%.

The report further reveals that among those hard hit in 2014, people with disabilities accounted for 29% (4 million people) while 16% of women lived in poverty.

To get first hand information on poverty in America, this blogger decided to research and analyse the situation during his short stay in the country.

In the USA, Syracuse city is now ranked the highest metropolitan area with poverty among African-Americans and Hispanics.

The city is located northern part of New York state.

According to the 2015 estimate of the United States Census Bureau, out of a total population of 144, 142 of Syracuse, 35.1% live in poverty.

The report states that of that population, 56.% are whites, 29.5% are African-Americans while Hispanics make up 8.3% of the city.

According to an article published by syracuse.com on September 5, 2015, “"Syracuse is at the leading edge of a disturbing national trend in which the number of people living in extreme-poverty neighborhoods nearly doubled from 7.2 million in 2000 to 13.8 million in 2013, the highest on record."
“The trend reflects a sharp reversal from the progress reported in the 1990s, when the number of Americans living in such concentrated poverty fell by 25 percent by 2000.”
The article states that the data is based on a 2015 report by Paul Jargowsky, the Rutgers University-Camden professor who published the study with The Century Foundation.
Coincidentally, this blogger is in Syracuse for six weeks and is investigating and writing a number of stories on poverty in America.

At Syracuse University, there is a famous street where beggars and homeless people are found.

On Marshall Street, both white and black beggars are found and Police keep an eye on them because sometimes they can be aggressive in their pursuit.

The image projected by Hollywood movies and TV channels that there is no poverty in America is totally different from what one can see if they venture out of these big US cities.

Like many other small cities reliant on industries, Syracuse has seen several plants closing and people losing jobs over the years.

The town has recorded an increase in unemployment which has resulted in poverty increasing in the southern part of the town which is mainly inhabited by blacks (African-Americans).

In the northern part of the town is a growing community of mainly Asian and Hispanic immigrants and a small but increasing population of Congolese.

Syracuse Deputy Mayor Bill Ryan concedes that his city has one of the country's highest poverty levels and he blames the trend for the increase in crime and the abuse of drugs in the city.
Bill Ryan speaking at City Hall


Mr Ryan, who is also the City's Chief of Staff, says shootings in the city where three people lost their lives in the past three weeks are as a result of poverty and increase in gang activities.

"Because they live in poverty, these criminal gangs are now resorting to drugs and crimes. We are doing everything possible to ensure we find the people involved because in the area where these shootings happened, we never had such incidents," said Mr Ryan when he addressed Mandela Washington fellows who visited City Hall recently.

On Tuesday, this blogger joined other Syracuse University-based 2016 Mandela Washington Fellows to help in making sandwiches for poor people at the Bishop Harrison Center which is run by the Catholic Church.

The trip was arranged by the university to help the young African fellows appreciate the challenges Americans in poor communities face on a daily basis.

The center, which is located at the All Saints Parish of the Catholic Church, hosts volunteers who make sandwiches twice a week to feed poor people who cannot afford to buy food for themselves.

“"The sandwich program started in 1990 and we make one at least a thousand sandwiches per week to feed people in need. We make them here at All Saints but they are transported to Assumption Parish in the north where they are given to people who cannot afford to feed themselves,”" said John Stopher, a volunteer who coordinates the program.

Fellows making sandwich
A former science teacher, Mr Stopher says he works with mainly volunteers who give their time to help feed the homeless, poor and needy.

“"Per day, we feed about 500 with lunch and supper. People who receive our sandwiches are those who are unemployed, those who are doing minimum wage jobs and those who cannot manage to feed their families. Sometimes we even have parents coming with their children," he added.

Mr Stopher, who gave a 30 minutes briefing to the visiting Mandela Washington Fellows, said he has a heart for volunteering and his Catholic faith has helped him spend a lot of time helping the needy since he retired.

“"I no longer work and I have a pension. I now volunteer here at the center. I also volunteer for the blood bank and the Red Cross. This spirit of volunteering is very common in our city and we have a couple of people coming down here to help out with sandwiches every week.”"

In the past 26 years the program has been running, church members and food companies have sustained the sandwich program by donating food stuffs to feed the needy.

When the meals are ready, those in need are fed irrespective of their religious affiliation and are not obliged to be registered.

“"We feed whoever shows up at our window. We do not care where they come from or which church they go to……. Usually we receive a huge number of people towards the end of the month when pay cheques run out,"” said Mr Stopper.
Schedule of meals at the Samaritan Center


Another church-run feeding program is the Samaritan Center, a former church building which is now the only hope for hundreds of people who cannot to feed themselves.

The center was established by seven local churches and it receives donations of funds and food stuffs from restaurants and several other donors.

It offers breakfast and supper to between 150 and 400 people on a daily basis.

According to officials at the Samaritan Center, about 150,000 meals were saved last year.

Most of the people fed are African-Americans but there is also a significant number of white people who receive the meals.

Just a few kilometers away from the Samaritan Center is the headquarters of the Salvation Army, another religious center where poor people are housed and fed for free.

The place offers free lodging for individuals and families who have been evicted or are homeless.

They are fed, given life skills and helped to get jobs.

On average, the homeless are given shelter for 20 days and there after they are expected to find a job or a new home.

"We are located in the southern part of Syracuse because this is where poverty is. We serve over 38,000 people through 41 separate programs, catering different groups of people," said Andrew Sabbaghzadeh, Resource Development Director at the Salvation Army Syracuse Headquarters.
Mr Sabbaghzadeh talking to Mandela Washington fellows


He said Salvation Army was working hard to fit into the US federal government's plan to eradicate poverty by 2022.

"Syracuse is nationally recognised because of its poverty. We are doing our best to cater for the poor through our programs."

The Salvation Army, which has been operating in Syracuse for over 100 years, has an annual budget of $20 million funded by grants from the federal and state governments as well as donors.

According to Salvation Army Onondaga County Chief Executive Officer Major Karla Clark, most of the money is raised during Christmas parties. 

"Despite being a church, the Salvation Army serves people of all races and religious faiths. Nobody is required to be a church member in order to receive our services," said Major Clark when she addressed visiting 2016 Mandela Washington fellows at her office.

Apart from offering shelter and food to the homeless, the church also runs the Therapy program which is aimed at helping youths break away from gangs and find alternatives like jobs and education to reduce the levels of violence in the city.

Syracuse is estimated to have over 100 gangs.

Apart from these church run initiatives, poor people in Syracuse, a town which falls under Onondaga County, have two other options of having a meal.

Firstly, the Onondanga County provides food and other supplies through a program called the Food Bank.

Here, those in need are registered by the county administration and queue up at centers to receive their meals.

According to Stopper, the Food Bank in a county benefits from US Federal funding.

Food banks operate like warehouses where food stuffs are collected and stored before being distributed to NGOs and food pantries which give food to the needy.

Secondly, the needy also receive meals from several centers called Pantries where free meals are issued at no cost.

The pantries survive on generosity from donors and other well wishers to feed thousands of people in Syracuse.

Apart from receiving donated food supplies, the pantries also buy cheap food stuffs from the local Food Banks.