In 1982, Gail Robbins was a social worker in need of a job, when a friend and former co-worker suggested she seek work part-time at Pittsburgh’s fledgling community food bank.
The food bank had opened not long before in Pittsburgh’s Hill District, in part in response to southwestern Pennsylvania’s declining economy, but also with the goal of salvaging food that was going to waste.
“Part of it was an effort to recover some food that was still edible but maybe wasn’t as pretty as people would want it to be or there were reasons that manufacturers would need to dispose of it or felt that they needed to dispose of it but...it was still edible, you know some marketing snafus and things like that,” Robbins recalled.
Thirty-eight years later, Robbins is the director of operations and the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank’s longest serving employee as the organization celebrates its 40th anniversary.
“The mission is still to feed people,” said Robbins, 65, of White Oak, but the food bank has changed a lot since its early days.
The Duquesne-based nonprofit aims to give away much more produce than it did at the beginning, when it was more focused on shelf-stable foods. By 2025, the food bank’s goal is for half of what it gives out to be fresh produce.
Why has she stayed so long?
“The fact that what I do every single day – whether it’s doing budgets, or memos, or reading emails about product – the fact that what I do every single day, has an impact on somebody getting food.”