Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank

The Business of Food Banks

Dec 9, 2014
Nancy Furbee / Chatham Center for Women's Entrepreneurship

The Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank's mission is to feed people in need and mobilize our community to eliminate hunger.

Their vision is for a hunger-free southwestern Pennsylvania. This week contributor Rebecca Harris looks at food banks in the region.

The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture announced Wednesday it’s partnering with Schneider’s Dairy and the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank to expand the state’s milk distribution program.

The food bank will now be able to purchase milk from Schneider’s at a reduced rate and then, after covering 15-30 percent of the cost, sell it to food pantries for an estimated 50 cents a quart.  Those pantries, spread across 11 counties will in turn give it for free to in-need Pennsylvanians.

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.

DrivingtheNortheast / Flickr

The holiday season is always a busy time for food banks and food pantries as they try to provide the basics-and a few extras-for those in need.

With the recent reduction in the allocation of federal food stamps, many low-income people have fewer resources to put food on the table this holiday season.

As a consequence, there has been a surge in demand at local food banks and food pantries.

Local Impact of Budget Cuts to Supplemental Food Programs

Dec 13, 2013
Ian Britton / flickr

SNAP Loses Funding for the Poor

Last month, for the first time in its history, cuts were made across America to the food-stamp program known as SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program).

Pennsylvania's program has lost $183 million; for families and food banks, the impact can be felt most around the holidays.

Catherine Buhrig, Division Director in the Bureau of Policy for the PA Department of Public Welfare and Ken Regal, executive director of Just Harvest, educate people and help them apply for SNAP benefits. 

Buhrig sees firsthand the significance of these cuts to those families that live under the poverty line. 

Representatives of more than a dozen local food banks and other public service organizations made their annual plea to Pittsburgh City Council for Community Development Block Grant funding on Tuesday.

The Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank asked for $200,000, which is consistent with what they received in years past.

Margaret J. Krauss / 90.5 WESA

On a muggy Wednesday morning, before the sun has burned off the morning’s clouds, Lionel Greenawalt drives across his 100-acre Westmoreland County farm to a field of sweet corn.

While Greenawalt and his children pick an average of 400 dozen ears of corn each morning, at the moment, they have more corn than they can sell.

“It was kind of rainy this summer season, and we weren’t able to get into the field to plant every five to seven days,” he said. “So what happens is we have a lot of corn that comes in all together.”

That’s where gleaning comes in.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

Streamlining the assistance process and making it more user-friendly were among the goals laid out when state policymakers and community leaders met Wednesday at the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank for a discussion about how to best combat hunger and poverty in Southwestern Pennsylvania.

House Majority Policy Committee Chairman Dave Reed (R-Indiana) said Representative Jake Wheatley (D-Allegheny) approached him earlier this summer about holding such an event.

Many students rely on free and reduced price meals during the school year and still need help over the summer.

In 2012, the Department of Agriculture served 2.3 million children at 38,800 sites on a typical summer day through the Summer Food Service Program. 

Free meals are available at sites all over the country to anyone 18 and under, or 21 and under if disabled, according to Cindy Moore of the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank. People can go to any location — no registration or documentation is necessary.

Farmers markets are opening all over the region with fresh, wholesome and affordable produce, and there are efforts to make sure everyone is able to share in the bounty.  

Ken Regal, Executive Director of Just Harvest, said the 160,000 residents of Allegheny County on Food Stamps have often been unable to use them at farmers markets because vendors usually only accept cash. 

This year, however, Just Harvest will staff kiosks at two Citiparks farmers markets where Food Stamps, as well as commercial debit and credit cards, can be used to buy tokens.