In 2007, the Westmoreland County Food Bank (WCFB) conducted a Gap Study which determined that there were 40,000 people who qualified for but were not receiving food-assistance. This was in addition to the 15,000 already being served by WCFB. After extensive research and planning, the WCFB Board of Directors agreed to align with Feeding America’s Strategic Plan for outreach and expansion throughout Westmoreland County. The focus of this strategy was to find new food, new funds, and new friends to assist in reaching the underserved while maintaining quality service for current consumers.
Early in the project’s planning stage, The United Way of Westmoreland County partnered with WCFB to provide funds for staff support for the project. Since 2009, WCFB has selected a different project area within Westmoreland County every two years and to date has completed outreach projects in the Jeannette, Mt. Pleasant/Scottdale, New Kensington, Mon-Valley, and Ligonier communities, assisting over 2000 new households.
In 2015 and 2016, the Mon-Valley area was the point of focus for the Outreach and Expansion area. “Our work in the Mon-Valley was very successful,” stated WCFB Director of Agency Services, Texie Waddell. “Initial capacity assessments revealed the need for an additional service location in the area and the community support we received in opening our newest food pantry was awesome. The pantry coordinators and volunteers involved with our Partner Agencies in the Mon-Valley are all amazing individuals that truly care about those less fortunate in their community. We couldn’t do this work without them.”
Ten years after the initial pilot project in Jeannette, WCFB’s outreach/expansion efforts are beginning in the West Newton area of Westmoreland County (2019-2020). The focus areas will include West Newton, Smithton, Herminie and surrounding areas, which currently have three food pantries in operation. Mrs. Waddell is currently assessing pantries to insure that they can handle an increase in people seeking food-assistance. In addition, outreach activities such as direct mailings will be sent toward income-eligible households in the West Newton area. WCFB also hopes to disseminate information about the project through the local school districts.
“We want to raise awareness of the Food Bank and its services,” said Waddell. “We want people to be aware of the income guidelines for eligibility and where the pantry sites are located. Families may be eligible for help and not even know it.” WCFB will be working on developing partnerships through the community to assist in raising awareness and help to increase volunteers at the pantries as participation increases at these sites.
Clearly, there is no immunity to hunger. It affects us all, especially in today’s economic climate. It’s times like these that make WCFB so important to so many people. WCFB is here to provide a helping hand to those in need, whenever they need it and gratefully welcomes the support of all those willing to help their neighbors. WCFB staff is also available to speak to groups and organizations interested in the work that will be done in the West Newton area. Please contact Texie Waddell at 724.468.8660 extension 20 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Finally, in communities like ours, it’s not uncommon to find citizens on both sides of a food pantry counter during their lives. So whether you need help, or want to help, the Westmoreland County Food Bank is there for you. For more information about the Westmoreland County Food Bank please visit their web site at www.westmorelandfoodbank.org.
About Westmoreland County Food Bank
The Westmoreland County Food Bank serves over 31,000 area residents each year including 9,300 children and 3,410 seniors. WCFB currently has 60 member agencies in their network of emergency feeding sites. Of those, 43 are food pantries in which low income consumers are able to access emergency food assistance throughout the month. Last year (2017), the Food Bank distributed over 6 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.