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Westmoreland County Food Bank

Westmoreland County Food Bank
Tries to End Hunger

by Karen Fetter

Hungry people live in Westmoreland County and the Westmoreland County Food Bank (WCFB) tries to reach out to each and every one of them.  Though able to feed over 15,000 people per month, 4,000 of whom are children, the Food Bank still needs help in so many ways.
 
The WCFB is a private, not-for-profit organization that supplies food to hungry people through a network of food assistance programs in Westmoreland County.  This program works in conjunction with food stamps to help sustain families longer.  There is no charge to be enrolled in the program.
 
Jennifer Miller, Development Director of WCFB, says that two ways people can help are by getting more volunteers and by creating more pantries.  There are still 12,000 people who are hungry in Westmoreland County and our goal is to feed all of them, said Jennifer. 
 
This is a daunting task, especially with funding going down and cost of fuel and food going up.  Because of the dramatic decrease in food and funds from the USDA and the State Food Program, the WCFBs program went from having 7 million pounds of food to distribute to only 5 million pounds of food, almost a 30% decrease.
 
Jennifer is excited about two programs currently under way to promote WCFB and to make people more aware of the program.  One program is Operation Fresh Express (OFE).  This mobile pantry will carry perishable food items to those in need throughout Westmoreland County.  The program will help eliminate waste that occurs when dealing with perishable items that are donated or bought.  
 
In 2007, over 386,000 pounds of perishable food was provided to over 6,800 needy individuals through OFE.  More than 2,000 were children and over 700 were seniors.  Without OFE, much of this nutritious food would be discarded due to lack of refrigeration. Each week, groups and individuals sponsor OFE distributions, where from 10,000 to 20,000 pounds of perishable food (frozen, dairy products, and fresh produce) is directly distributed to needy families by WCFB staff and volunteers at sites throughout Westmoreland County.
 
You can help with a sponsorship for 2008 for only $350.  If you would like to volunteer at or sponsor an OFE, please contact Deana at 724.468.8660 ext. 29 or e-mail her: deana@westmorelandfoodbank.org.   The Food Bank has received a grant through the Pittsburgh 250th Sprout Foundation for 2008 to expand this program in the Monessen, Greensburg, and Mt. Pleasant areas where they are lacking sponsorships.
 
Another way WCFB is trying to gain more awareness is through a monthly radio show on WCNS in Latrobe.  The show will air on the third Saturday of each month from 8:30 a.m. to 9:00 a.m.  The first show is set to air in February with Jennifer as the host.

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Of each dollar donated to WCFB, 97 cents goes to food and food programs. WCFB also acquires food through local donations and government food assistance programs (State Food Purchase Grant and The Emergency Food Assistance Program).  This food is then sent to provide food to meal programs, soup kitchens, food pantries, emergency shelters, and child care programs. 
 
We want to educate the public on the WCFB because a lot of working poor people dont come forth because they arent aware that they could be helped, said Jennifer.  Whether it is to assist in addition to food stamps or to just help families who are hungry, this program is designed to end hunger in Westmoreland County.  Each person signs a self-declaration of need to become eligible.  If a person qualifies for food stamps they also can qualify as a client for the food pantry. 
 
Jennifer says another goal of the WCFB is to develop new pantries in certain areas, especially in the rural, more mountainous areas of the county.  The WCFB is looking for people who are dedicated once a month to help people in these communities.
 
Our goal is to end hunger, said Jennifer.  We are trying to become creative to get people to hear our pleas.
 
Cash donations are extremely helpful because the WCFB can buy in bulk and receive wholesale prices.  Just $1.00 can buy 7 pounds of food, which is enough to make five meals.  Jennifer adds that the operations manager creates new packages each month for clients so there is a variety.  People can then make different meals and try new foods.  The food bank does not just want to end hunger, but it cares about the food that it gives each person just as if they were able to purchase it on their own. 
 
There are three major food drives each year among many smaller ones that greatly support the WCFB.  One is the partnership with the Boy Scouts that will take place April 5.  The Scouts spend the day collecting grocery items from houses and stands at certain locations.  Last year they collected 36,000 pounds of food.  Another is the Fall Food Share Program.  The Westmoreland County Food Bank works with Giant Eagle to collect food for its clients.  Often times, people will take advantage of the buy one get one offers and other large quantity sales and donate the extra item or items to the food bank.  There is also the Mail Carriers food drive.  Local mail carriers distribute flyers to houses all over Westmoreland County asking people to leave grocery items on their front porch that they wish to donate. Then the carriers come by to pick up the donations while delivering the mail.   
 
If you would like to be a volunteer or to make a donation, please contact the WCFB at their main office in Delmont at 724-468-8660 or visit www.westmorelandfoodbank.org.

Volunteer or to make a donation
to the Westmoreland Food Bank

Contact the WCFB at their main office in Delmont at
724-468-8660 or visit www.westmorelandfoodbank.org.

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