The COVID-19 pandemic has brought on unforeseen challenges for families and industries alike. The Westmoreland County Food Bank has been feeding the need locally and since mid-March has distributed over 1.2 million pounds of food to households throughout the county.
As part of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, the United States Department of Agriculture is partnering with national, regional and local suppliers, whose workforce has been significantly impacted by the closure of restaurants, hotels and other food service businesses, to purchase up to $3 billion in fresh produce, dairy and meat products. Suppliers will package these products totaling $1.2 billion into family-sized boxes, then transport them to food banks, community and faith-based organizations, and other non-profits serving Americans in need (USDA).
The “Farmers to Families Food Box” is an avenue to assist farmers, ranchers, specialty crop producers, food processors and distributors and non-profit organizations to ensure that all Americans have access to the food they need during the COVID-19 national emergency.
Through the USDA and food distributors, the Westmoreland County Food Bank has secured these Farmers to Families boxes for distribution. The Food Bank had to pause some of their supplemental programs due to COVID-19 because the programs could not be operated in a low touch manner. “When the USDA introduced the Farmers to Families program, it was an opportunity for us to layer another program onto our existing services, distribute additional food, and assist the farmers who work so hard to provide us all with food” stated Jennifer Miller, WCFB CEO.
With the agency’s food pantries already handling an increase in participants seeking services, the Food Bank knew that they would have to distribute this food via a different avenue than their existing network locations. WCFB reached out to the Westmoreland Fairgrounds and they were more than happy to assist with providing a location to hold the large distributions.
The Westmoreland Fair is facing its own challenges as agricultural fairs across the state are forced to make difficult decisions about holding their annual events amid pandemic concerns. Many fairs in other counties have already cancelled, however the Westmoreland Fair has not yet made their decision on holding the August 2020 nine daylong event.
Craig Lash, President of the Westmoreland Fair Board of Directors said “We are unsure what the future looks like for the 2020 Fair, but the Fairgrounds is a part of the community, and we want to do what we can to help.”
WCFB and the Westmoreland Fairgrounds are holding a Farmers to Families Food Box distribution on Wednesday, May 27th 2020 from 10:00am-12:00pm at the Fairgrounds. This will be a truck to trunk drive through distribution providing produce and dairy items to up to 1,000 households. There is a limit of two households per vehicle and boxes of food will be loaded directly into the trunk/vehicle to minimize person to person contact. This is a free distribution that is open to anyone. The Westmoreland Fairgrounds is located at 123 Blue Ribbon Lane, Greensburg PA 15601 and cars receiving food should use the entrance on Fairgrounds Road, arriving no earlier than 9:00am. This is a reoccurring distribution program and future dates and times will be announced.
For more information about the Farmers to Families distribution call 724-468-8660 extension 31
About Westmoreland County Food Bank
The Westmoreland County Food Bank serves over 7,000 unduplicated households each month. WCFB currently has 66 member agencies in their network of emergency feeding sites. Of those, 44 are food pantries in which low income consumers are able to access emergency food assistance throughout the month. Last year (2019), the Food Bank distributed over 7 million pounds of food. 50% of WCFB’s food comes from the federal and state governments and the remaining 50% from local donations, food drives, and Feeding America™