The November midterms are days away, and issues such as immigration are coming front and center. As New York City deals with an influx of asylum seekers, one non-profit organization in Kingston is responding to an increase in need at their weekly food pantry as more immigrants come into the Hudson Valley.

Kim Touchette, a board member with the Ulster Immigrant Defense Network, has been a volunteer with the organization for three years.

“We are definitely seeing more families come in,” Touchette said. “But we also are seeing other family members join families that are already here, which is certainly part of the process that allows them to come in legally to join someone that is in the community already. It’s very disheartening to see politics being played with people’s lives.”

What You Need To Know

  • Ulster Immigrant Defense Network has seen a dramatic uptick in number of immigrant families at its weekly food pantry

  • Volunteer Kim Touchette says the group is now serving 160 families on average every week because of new arrivals and families struggling to make ends meet amid rising inflation

  • Filadelpho Mazariego, who has been in the U.S. for seven years, comes to the food pantry because of high rent and grocery store prices

Touchette says UIDN is serving 160 families on average every week, compared to 130 families in the beginning of 2022. That’s a jump of about 23%.

“I really feel like the more work we can do to make these families feel welcome, the more they will become part of our community,” Touchette said, “and be cherished really in terms of what they can bring to enrich our community.”

The people who come to the farmer’s market-style food pantry in Kingston, a sanctuary city, are from countries like Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala and Mexico. They fill their bags with fresh produce and staples like eggs, milk, cheese and chicken.

Filadelpho Mazariego came to the U.S. from El Salvador seven years ago. He has a wife and three children. When asked how he feels to know UIDN is there to help immigrant families in need, he said in Spanish that he was “very, very happy," adding he was grateful for UIDN volunteers for their support.

Mazariego isn’t a new arrival to the U.S. like some others in line. Even though he has a job in gardening, he is struggling to make ends meet in an already complicated system.

“Here in the United States, rent is very expensive and sometimes not enough [money] for food,” Mazariego said. “This [food pantry] helps a lot.”

Spectrum News 1 reached out to immigration groups across New York, and has found that while asylum seekers are being bused to New York City, groups in upstate New York aren’t reporting a significant uptick in the number of new arrivals.

UIDN also provides other services and assistance for things like rent, transportation or legal proceedings. The non-profit organization connects people to pro bono lawyers who can help them with their asylum cases.