Community
3:30 am
Mon December 30, 2013

Food Pantries Get Attention During the Holidays, But Need is Year-Round

While the holidays remind many of the food needs of others and compel people to donate to food banks, Lisa Scales, executive director and CEO of the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank, said need is not dependent on the calendar. In fact, she said summer can be a critical time for many families.

"Especially for parents of young children, when those children are out of school, they frequently don't have as much to eat during the summer," Scales said. "We look at every time throughout the year as a critical need, especially for those parents of young children, especially for senior citizens."

Scales said one of the factors driving demand this season is the reduction of the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program on November 1. SNAP helped 47 million low income Americans pay for food — nearly 75 percent of SNAP participants are in families with children and more than one-quarter of participants are in households with seniors or people with disabilities. The reduction means a loss of $29 a month for a family of three.

"Many of those families have somebody in the household who is working full time, but they don't earn enough wages to make ends meet, and so many of those families come to us for a four or five day supply of food," said Scales. "With the SNAP cuts they'll be looking to us for many more days of food."

The majority of the people the food bank serves are seniors, people with disabilities, children and veterans. In Pittsburgh one out of three people are eligible for the GCFB's services, but Scales pointed out that rural counties have a high degree has poverty that can go overlooked.

"The extent of childhood hunger is very high, many of those counties over 20 percent of the children are food insecure," she said.

Scales said while donations are always needed, helping families get to a place where they no longer rely on the food bank is crucial. To that end, Scales said they're trying do more than just distribute food.

"There are a number of jobs available throughout our region and so the food bank is looking to be a connector to those opportunities," she said.