2016 Hunger Action MonthTM Honoree: Outstanding Agency Award – Rostraver Food Pantry, sponsored by the Belle Vernon Ministerium
September is nationally recognized as Hunger Action Month™, when Feeding America food banks, including the Westmoreland County Food Bank (WCFB), take action to fight hunger in the community all month long. During this time, WCFB hosts the annual partnership luncheon to recognize notable community donors and partners that have joined the Food Bank in the fight against hunger here at home. Among the 2016 award recipients was Rostraver Food Pantry which has distributed food to individuals in need in Belle Vernon and surrounding areas for nearly 20 years. Sponsored by the Belle Vernon Ministerium, the food pantry takes place at Fells United Methodist Church in Rostraver. The Ministerium has also graciously sponsored Operation Fresh Express for the pantry clients to supplemental fresh food items.
How have you been affected by hunger?
The Belle Vernon Area Ministerium is an ecumenical organization of churches created in part to provide a way for local congregations and their clergy to identify needs and issues where their collective efforts can provide a stronger response than individual actions would. Some 30 years ago, hunger in the area was identified as just such a problem and a fledgling effort at one of the churches became a collective ministry that continues to this day. The Mid-Mon Valley was and is undergoing very substantial changes in its industrial base and employment opportunities. The resulting dislocation in people’s lives and in social agencies’ ability to address this change left many, particularly the very young and very old, in need of dependable assistance on a regular basis. We are constantly amazed at the size and persistence of the “food insecurity” problem in this area. We currently serve between 180 and 200 clients per month. There is little that focuses the attention of a faith community like a regular commitment to provide a loving, caring service to those in need through a collective activity with other similar believers. For over 30 years, hunger has been a consistent ministry and has served as a model for how the Ministerium can address local needs.
How has the Westmoreland County Food Bank impacted your life?
WCFB has provided a way for us to address the hunger problem in our area without the need for paid staff or an ongoing program of solicitation, purchase, storage, and culling of food items. All of these extremely cumbersome and regulation-bound activities are handled by professional staff in a central location, permitting us to do what we do best – deliver food and care to individuals in need. To us, our clients are people, not numbers. They are known by name to those who see them each month. Our ability to deliver the volume and variety of food that can truly make a difference to them is directly tied to our connection with WCFB – with their ability to leverage support from federal, state, and local government sources and with their sterling reputation with non-government contributors. It is fair to say that without the WCFB we would not be able to serve as many clients or provide as much food to each of them as we do.
What would you tell someone who may be thinking about donating to the Food Bank?
WCFB is an amazingly efficient organization that turns over 95% of its funds into services to its target clientele. The problem they address is ongoing. They do the hard work of food acquisition, warehousing, and delivery so that agencies such as ours can concentrate on what we do best – directly interface with local clients in real need. There is no better way to leverage your donation of money or food to address hunger in Westmoreland County than to contribute to this organization.