The Westmoreland County Food Bank is beginning the month of April operating in a completely different manner than it had just 30 days prior. With the onset of the Covid19 pandemic in the United States and with the help of Feeding America and Feeding Pennsylvania, the Westmoreland County Food Bank began to strategically plan and change daily operations to ensure that the organization was prepared to serve the nearly 18,000 individuals it sees each month—a number that is increasing daily since the onset of the pandemic.
WCFB supplies food to 44 partner agency food pantries throughout the county in order to provide assistance to food insecure households. While WCFB sources and delivers food to the pantries, each pantry operates with groups of dedicated volunteers who unpack and organize the food for distribution to those in need.
With social distancing recommendations and the coronavirus spreading rapidly through the US, WCFB recognized that the traditional distribution methods would not be appropriate, as food items are handled many times before distribution, often among large groups of people.
Jennifer Miller, WCFB CEO said “As an organization that seeks to feed the hungry, we recognize and acknowledge the importance of a healthy community. We had to make changes to our operations so that we can keep everyone safe—recipients, volunteers, and WCFB staff—while still providing an essential service to the community.”
Deemed a life sustaining organization, the Food Bank has continued to operate since Governor Wolf began ordering closures on March 19th. Beginning in mid-March, WCFB requested volunteers at the Delmont based warehouse to safely pre-pack the pantry food boxes to be distributed in April. Delivering prepacked food boxes to each of the pantries allows the distributions to occur with as minimal handling as possible—with many of the pantries distributing in a drive through or curbside pickup manner.
For April alone, WCFB has boxed and prepared 480,000 pounds of food, providing each participating household with a 10-14 day supply of food. “With the closing of businesses and sudden unemployment for many, we are seeing an increase in those seeking assistance,” Miller stated.
While the organization has changed distribution methods in order to minimize community risk, this does not come without cost. “Purchasing boxes, additional food, and distributing in this manner is very costly for the organization. Pandemics are not something you predict in a budget” Miller said. The community has been supportive of WCFB in the past, and as such the organization is welcoming donations to help offset the costs of these unforeseen circumstances.
For more information about the organization or to donate, please visit westmorelandfoodbank.org or mail to Westmoreland County Food Bank, 100 Devonshire Drive, Delmont PA 15626.
Anyone that needs assistance with food should call WCFB at 724-468-8660 extension 10.
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™