North Side Mutual Aid, a Binghamton volunteer organization, is distributing food and goods to local residents in an effort to uplift the community during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Donation drop-offs are accepted from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. every Tuesday and Thursday at the Citizen Action of New York Headquarters, located at 477 State St. in Binghamton. The organization encourages Binghamton University students to get involved and support their mission to help feed the community.

North Side Mutual Aid began its operations in March 2020 at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. By supplying community members with essential resources, it hopes to achieve the goal of minimizing food insecurity. The North Side Distribution Center is collecting nonperishable food items, cleaning supplies and household essentials for distribution.

Composed of local residents and BU students, North Side Mutual Aid was founded on the principle of unification. Megan Carrie, North Side Mutual Aid co-leader and a senior majoring in economics, said she shares the organization’s goal of strengthening the community and helping those in need. She explained how affordable nutritious food is widely inaccessible in the North Side of Binghamton.

“The North Side is a food desert and has over 40 percent of the population falling under the poverty line,” Carrie wrote in an email. “It [is] important for us to help our community members who need us most during these trying times. Everybody has something to give and something that they need. That is the essence of mutual aid.”

According to North Side Mutual Aid’s Instagram page, a successful community requires everyone to contribute as much as they have to offer — whether that be time, resources or knowledge.

“Mutual aid is [about] the unification of individuals who deeply care about their community and wish to use the resources they have to meet each other’s needs,” the post read. “It is not transactional but reciprocal. Collective care is what has got us through these times and what will allow us to continue serving our community in the ways needed.”

Tianni Golding, a sophomore majoring in psychology, shared her excitement about the organization’s work and hopes to contribute as a volunteer in the near future.

“I think that this whole year has been hard on everyone, and the people who have faced challenges need more support than ever,” Golding wrote. “I think that distribution of food could help more families who are still fighting to get back on their feet. I’d love to get involved next semester.”

Cam Wallace, a sophomore majoring in environmental studies, explained the necessity of the organization in battling the issue of food insecurity.

“I think North Side Mutual Aid is a great idea,” Wallace wrote. “Helping local residents gain access to food is invaluable. I would absolutely consider getting involved.”

North Side Mutual Aid elaborated on the backbone of its mission on its Instagram page, stating that issues, such as food accessibility, are widely connected to other societal issues, such as low economic status.

“There are many other systems of oppression [that] contribute to the inequitable distribution of resources, and all of these issues need to be tackled head-on,” the post read. “Our goal is to build enough power to keep each other safe, well fed and united.”

The organization has been able to feed and supply hundreds of local families since its operations began. Baby formula and diapers have been in high demand, along with other household items. North Side Mutual Aid is also accepting monetary donations, as well as home-cooked meals for some of their families. Wallace voiced his opinion on the severity of environmental racism and injustice, in the hope that the organization’s actions will help combat these systemic issues.

“Environmental racism and injustice (such as food insecurity) is such a serious and growing problem, and it needs to be fixed,” Wallace wrote. “Organizations like North Side Mutual Aid are changing lives and ultimately saving them as well.”