Farmers Play New Role To Solve Rural Hunger

Aug 20, 2015
Kara Holsopple / The Allegheny Front

In a parking lot, a line of people carrying laundry baskets and empty shopping bags curls around a brick church building in rural Somerset County, southeast of Pittsburgh. This is farm country. But a lot of people here don’t have access to fresh produce.

People haven’t driven here to go to church. Today, the parking lot is doubling as a drop-off site for a food bank. Joetta Shumaker has placed her laundry basket on a shopping cart, and weaves her way through rows of folding tables.

One of eight Pennsylvania residents lives in a home that can’t afford enough food.

“That’s a 25 percent increase over the last decade. So whether you need help for yourself, or for your family, or both we want people to move beyond the shame to say if you need help, get it,” said Joel Berg, executive director of the New York City Coalition Against Hunger.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is hoping to reach more Pennsylvania residents deemed “hungry” and in need of food assistance, so it’s launching a hotline outreach campaign nationwide.

It’s officially spring, and we’re ready to start acting like it!

On Friday and Saturday, the Farm to Table Food Conference will take over the David L. Lawrence Convention Center with food samples, local businesses and how to find them (hint: farmers markets around Pittsburgh!) beer, and recipes for culinary-inclined guests.
(On Friday night, an intimate food tasting will be held from 5 – 7 PM.)

On Saturday, Josh will interview author Marcus Rediker and filmmaker Tony Buba on the recetn film Ghosts of Amistad at 10 AM at the SPACE Gallery. The interview is one featured event during the Pittsburgh Humanities Festival, talking place all weekend. 

On Sunday, guests can help fight  hunger here in Pittsburgh one spoonful at a time at the 20th Annual Empty Bowls Dinner at Rodef Shalom Congregation in Oakland from 2 PM to 6 PM. Top restaurants around the city will submit soups for guests to enjoy, and the event will feature family-friendly entertainment and a silent auction.

Coming Up: Get your best ringmaster attire ready for Yelp’s Under the Big Top free event, April 2nd at the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh.       

Joseph / Flickr

August Wilson is well known for his 20th century cycle of works about the black experience in America. But now an additional play written shortly before Wilson’s death is debuting in Pittsburgh. Actor Eugene Lee and Director Todd Kreidler, Wilson’s friend and protégé, explain what “How I Learned What I Learned” reveals about the playwright’s life as a poet in the Hill District.

"His quality of mind is actually something that comes out in the show, and that's something Eugene really brings out. The way he can twist and turn. I always say that August was a blues man with a jazz mind." - Director Todd Kreidler

Also in this show, a look at how the USDA is taking a new approach to fighting hunger, and CMU students prepare to launch a Xombie into space.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

Mike Caplan and Terese Caldararo are walking through the rows of their garden, pointing out the different fruits, vegetables and herbs they planted this spring.

“We’ve got 25 tomato plants: Cherokee tomato, German Johnson’s, Rutgers. You name it we got it,” Caplan says. “And up front we’ve got peppers, bell peppers, and a lot of banana peppers."

“Different kinds of squash and zucchini: acorn squash, summer squash. We grew lettuce here. We had cilantro, we had parsley and rosemary,” Caldararo adds.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

Many of us will spend the next few days with friends and family, sharing meals and opening gifts. But for the poor, homeless and hungry, the holidays can present special challenges.

“I would think the holidays … could be a really difficult time for someone who might not have family or might not have the means to provide the gifts or the food that are so traditionally associated with the holiday,” said Kate Wadsworth, public relations manager for Light of Life Rescue Mission.

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.

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.