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Identity & Community

Pittsburgh Food Pantry Turns to Crowdfunding

Usually a food pantry looks for monetary or food donations to stock their shelves, but the Northside Community Food Pantry needs a bit more.

Organizers need help replacing their shelves, ramps, tables and storage units to give it “more of a supermarket-style feel,” officials said.

“We operate one of the few shopping-model food pantries in the city,” said Jay Poliziani, executive director of Northside Common Ministries.  “That eliminates the waste of being given something they’re not going to utilize, and more importantly, it offers a level of dignity that we’re committed to because they are able to pick their own products.”

Poliziani said to raise the $10,000 needed to renovate the pantry, they’ve launched a crowdfunding campaign dubbed “ReRamp Pittsburgh’s Northside Community Food Pantry. 

“This is our first attempt at crowdfunding, and we’ve seen it work with some other programs in the neighborhood, and we’re very excited that this might be a good match.”

In the basement store at 1601 Brighton Road,  Poliziani said the shelves are falling off the walls, the space is narrow and crowded and the ramps aren’t wide enough to accommodate grocery carts.

“So our goal with the renovation and changing the layout and the shelving and brightening the place up  a bit is we’ll be able to have double the number of people shopping at one time that we would have right now," he said. "Currently we have four people to shop at one time and we [would] go at least to eight possibly higher.”

Poliziani says long waits can add a layer of indignity to the experience and can discourage some from coming to the pantry.

“Folks will be able to get in and out more quickly, and so they’ll be able to get to their job or be able to be home with their family or take care of other appointments as opposed to sitting in line waiting to be called down to do their shopping,” he said.

Those waits can be long because the pantry provides a week’s worth of food to more than 950 food-insecure families each month.  Children, the disabled and the elderly comprise the core of their clients, but “what we have seen is an increase in the working poor” who are seeking food assistance, Poliziani said.

Organizers hope to have the money raised in time to do the renovations in August when the pantry traditionally closes for a week to clean and take inventory, he said.

“If we don’t get quite there, we’re going to make it happen. A $10,000 investment will make a huge difference in the lives of the people we serve.”