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90.5 WESA reporters look at food issues in the region, including access, school lunch programs, food history, culture and more. Check our collection of stories below.

Food Pantry Needs Extend Beyond Traditional Giving Months

It might come as no surprise that area food banks say they see an influx in people donating their time, money or groceries during the holiday season, but what many do not realize is that the giving spirit seems to hit a lull after the New Year.

“Member congregations are doing food drives … so we do see an influx (in donations) but the need also is increased this time of the year. It’s actually ever present throughout the year,” said East End Cooperative Ministry Executive Director Michael Mingrone.

EECM serves 500 families a month out of its pantry. With weather changes and added expenses in heating bills, families’ available cash often decreases. In turn, there is an increase in demand in the pantry and community kitchen.

But once that overflow in giving period is over, the need still continues.

“The way we operate is based upon what our trends have been for the past few years. So we’re always trying to make those kinds of adjustments as we go and that’s why cash donations are critical for us because we’re able to hold those longer and cover the gaps in the slow periods with that kind of purchasing power,” Mingrone said.

Lisa Scales, CEO of the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank, said the food bank gets a pretty steady flow of volunteers and food drives year-round, but not as often as during the holiday months.

She said November and December are when the food bank raises the bulk of its money for the rest of the fiscal year. Otherwise the food bank relies on the special pleas.

“If we’re low on food, we put out a request for food for food drives and the community does step up. We have very generous people in southwestern Pennsylvania and we’re fortunate that people want to stay engaged with us year round,” she said.

While any donation of time or money is welcome, both said fresh produce is most often requested during the winter months. 

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