The last two months have been anything but ordinary for the Westmoreland County Food Bank. With the onset of the COVID-19 Pandemic, the organization has changed the way they have operated for thirty-eight years. Difficult decisions had to be made to temporarily cancel programs like Operation Fresh Express, due to the fact that this program is not set up to be a drive-thru, no touch program and the amount of food donated for this program specifically has been drastically reduced.
All of the food distributed–nonperishable, refrigerated, and frozen products—has been pre-packaged by dedicated volunteers on a daily basis at the Delmont warehouse so that community distributions are easier to operate. Each of the Food Bank’s partner food pantries have transitioned into drive thru or curbside pickup distributions so that the prepackaged boxes can be loaded directly into consumer’s vehicles.
Emergency food boxes have been distributed out of the Delmont facility to those who found themselves in a crisis situation. For the foreseeable future the Food Bank will continue to pre-package boxes and encourage their partner agencies to operate a drive-thru, low touch distribution. Food pantries are seeing marked increases in participation from this time last year, and are requesting additional food from the Food Bank as a result of this increased need.
The biggest obstacle that the Westmoreland County Food Bank is facing at this point is the unknown. Being a proactive organization historically, this has been quite a transition. However, the support of the community has been overwhelming. “In the past, we have seen the community come forth and really step up. This time it is just amazing,” said CEO, Jennifer Miller. “We need the help now more than ever and are very grateful for the gifts of time and treasure that we have received.”
Recently, Mrs. Miller met with local Shop n’ Save grocery store owner Ray Charley and WCFB Board Member Ronald Eberhardt, regarding what the Charley Family could do to help during this time of crisis. “The Charley Family wanted to be able to help the communities that support them through this time of pandemic,” stated Miller. As a result of this conversation, the Charley Family decided that they would donate $50,000 of grocery vouchers to the pantry sites located in Greensburg and Murrysville. These $20 vouchers will be distributed during the month of May and must be used by July 1, 2020. Vouchers can be used for food items only and must be used in full (no change will be given). “The Charley Family has been historically generous to the families that we serve, but this is just over the top and so heartwarming to see them giving back to their neighbors,” stated Miller.
Many foundations and corporations are providing monetary support for pandemic response and daily operations. While monetary contributions are impactful, the gift of donated time should not be overlooked. Volunteers are working daily shifts to pack food boxes for the community. Early Saturday morning, (April 25th) Pennsylvania State Representative Bob Brooks and his wife arrived at the Food Bank to help pack 1,420 Commodity Supplemental Food Boxes (CSFP Senior Food Boxes) for low income senior citizens. Many corporations and organizations have also volunteered at the Food Bank warehouse including the Murrysville Rotary, Knights of Columbus, CNX Resources and Excela Health. “We are unsure what the future holds, but we are grateful that the community is showing us support as we work to feed the growing need” stated Miller.
For more information about the organization, volunteering, 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 during this time 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™