Demand at the South Hills Interfaith Ministries food pantry has tripled since 2007, and it continues to rise. To help, the Walmart Foundation is contributing $30,000 to the group as part of an initiative to help fight hunger in Pennsylvania.
Nearly half a million dollars was awarded today, including $235,000 to Hunger-Free Pennsylvania, the largest single recipient. Awards were also made to several other city and suburban food pantries throughout southwestern Pennsylvania.
The South Hills Interfaith Ministries (SHIM) received funding to support its "Pantry Plus" program, an initiative to provide food and social services to the region's needy.
"The program really encompasses the whole prospect of trying to be a bridge toward self-sufficiency for individuals that are suffering," SHIM Executive Director James Duffey said.
The SHIM pantry currently serves approximately 400 families and 1,200 individuals, with 20 new families registering each month. Duffey said that this growth not only isn't unique, but it isn't going away, either.
"We've been advised that once this recession and the economy really gets some legs under it, we can expect the continued need for at least another two years at the demand level we're currently seeing, if not continuing to increase. It will take folks time to recover," Duffey said.
The pantry is located in Bethel Park, a suburban area not often associated with poverty. But according to Duffey, the need is still there.
"It's a very different kind of quiet poverty that presents its own challenges," Duffey said.
Currently the ministry stocks a variety of fresh breads, canned and frozen goods, pastas, desserts, and beverages twice a month. Funding from the Walmart Foundation will allow the group to expand the variety of its products to better accommodate the specific dietary needs among refugee populations found in the South Hills.