BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Western New York native, Tara Ellis began her journey with nutrition sustainability nearly a decade ago.

Starting with Meals on Wheels and moving up the ranks, now President and CEO of FeedMore Western New York, Ellis has made quite an impact. Those who work with her say, she’s a driving force behind the organization’s mission today.

“I started to do a lot of research and tried to understand what was being done in other states and other cities and learned about umbrella relief programs,” said Ellis.  

She worked tirelessly to bring that umbrella relief style program here, FeedMore WNY combines the food bank and Meals on Wheels. Ellis says it’s that same mission of providing nutritious food —  but now even more inclusive.

“So that we can work on hunger, its’ root causes and making sure no one goes hungry regardless of their age and how they need to get that food.”  

FeedMore has several food pantries scattered across its four coverage counties.  It even provides items like diapers and baby formula for mothers in need, a school pantry program and backpack program for students in need, and Meals on Wheels for those who can’t leave their homes.

She says right now, there are about a quarter million individuals facing hunger in WNY, around 81,000 of them are children.

“We should not be in a situation where you have such a high percentage of individuals who don’t know where their next meal is coming from.”

This past year through the pandemic, FeedMore served an additional 4 million meals to the community. In order to do so, the organization had to adapt. 

“A lot of contactless drop-offs and contactless mobile distributions. taking emergency food kits to those who can’t get out, including Covid positive families.. we really have tried to be part of the public health solution,” said Ellis.

And while many are receiving the vaccine, Ellis says the aftermath from the virus is far from over. 

“We’re all getting so excited that Covid is something that is going to soon be in our rearview mirror but the economic fall out is not. We will be feeding people at these increased levels for about five years.”

She’s asking the community to continue to step up, volunteer, spread the word, and donate.

“We can turn your dollars into the food you see behind us, to help feed everyone in need in WNY.”   

All the while, Ellis is launching several new sustainability programs. At the end of the day, she says the organization wouldn’t be able to get by without its wonderful staff and help from its fellow good neighbors.

“I’m thrilled and excited and really just so proud of WNY because this community has just stood up for us and with us.”

For more information on Feedmore WNY, head here.

Gabrielle Mediak is a reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2019. See more of her work here.