Assisting Our Neighbors in Need
It seems almost inconceivable, when we hear so often about Americans having an obesity problem, that there are people in this country who are hungry, but according to the most recent Hunger America report conducted in 2014, more than 15 percent of the residents of the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank’s 11-county service area need food assistance. Headquartered in Duquesne, the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank distributes 26.5 million pounds of food to 360,000 people annually through its network of 400 independent Member Agencies and Partner Distribution Organizations. Popular Pittsburgh interviewed Beth Snyder, Public Relations Coordinator for the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank, to learn more about our neighbors in need and the work the food bank and its affiliates do to assist them.
Q. Who most commonly uses the food bank?
A. There is no stereotype for the person in need of food assistance. Imagine experiencing a job loss, reduction in work hours, or a life-changing medical condition. The two biggest populations of individuals we serve are children and seniors. These two groups combined make up 50 percent of the people in need of food assistance.
Q. If we have federal food assistance programs, why do we need food banks?
A. Federal food assistance programs, such as SNAP, are a great resource for qualifying families in need of assistance, but they aren’t a complete solution. Food assistance programs such as food pantries and on-site meal programs help families make the ends meet and help people that don’t qualify for SNAP but are facing an emergency situation where they need help.
Q. Is it more difficult to come by food at certain times of the year? For example, is food more plentiful at the food bank during the summer with donations from gardens?
A. The need for food assistance in our region is consistent, but there are times where the need increases such as in the winter when the holidays and rising utility costs can impact the household budget and when school is out for the summer and children no longer have access to school meals.
These times make donations more critical, but public and private programs come through for these families. During the holiday season, the community bands together to donate through programs such as the KD Turkey Fund benefiting Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank, Fall Food Share, and community food and funds drives held in their communities. All of these programs ensure that the food bank and its member pantries are able to meet the need in the community. With programs like the Summer Food Program, kids can access free meals during the summer months when school meals are unavailable.
Q. Who contributes to the food bank? From where do acquire most of your food?
A. Donations to Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank (the food bank) come in many forms and from many sources. Individuals contribute monetarily, with their time, and by donating food through food drives. Corporations, retailers, farms, and distribution centers often donate food, money, and volunteer time.
Q. What is most needed at the food bank?
A. Because of our purchasing power, we are able to provide five meals with every dollar donated. Our most needed items are:
- Monetary contributions
- Laundry Detergent
- Paper Products
- Pasta Sauce
- Peanut Butter
- Dried or Canned Beans
- Pouched or Canned Tuna
- Instant Mashed Potatoes
Q. Do you have to meet qualifications to be eligible to receive assistance from the Food Bank?
A. There are qualifications for receiving food assistance. To find out if you are eligible, call 211. (The food emergency hotline.)
Q. Do most people use the Food Bank for a short period or on an on-going basis?
A. While each story is different, most of the families we serve use food assistance for a short period of time such as when they are in between jobs, are experiencing a reduction in work hours, or are assisting a family member with a medical condition.
Q. If people want to help, what is the best way to do so?
A. The best way for people to help is to donate, volunteer, or speak out.
In addition, from now through Thanksgiving, there are several ways for individuals to help.
Fall Food Share is active across our region at participating Giant Eagle locations. Individuals can make a monetary or grocery donation to families in need at the checkout. Volunteers are also needed to pass out “most-needed items” lists and accept donations. For more information or to find a participating store near you or to sign up to volunteer, visit pittsburghfoodbank.org/foodshare.
The KDKA-TV Turkey Fund benefiting Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank is another great way for people to help. By making a monetary donation online, by mail or at a PNC Bank branch, individuals provide holiday turkeys to families in need. For more information or to contribute to the fund, visit pittsburghfoodbank.org.
Visit with Santa Claus at People’s Gas Holiday Market in Market Square between November 25 and December 24 and receive a photo with Santa in exchange for a minimum $5 cash donation to the food bank. Every $5 donation provides 25 meals to the community.
For more information on the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank, visit the website at: www.pittsburghfoodbank.org