North Side Neighbors Call For Holiday Food Pantry Donations

Dec 17, 2015

Volunteers shelf donations Thursday at the North Side Food Pantry.
Credit Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA News

A group of neighbors in the Mexican War Streets knew the local food pantry was short on food and turned to Facebook.

They said the pantry was well stocked Monday night but more than 100 families shopped Tuesday. They asked for walk-in donations.  

The food pantry on Brighton Road serves 850 families a month, but in the winter months, Executive Director Jay Poliziani said that number increases. Families try to stretch budgets when they are stressed to provide a memorable holiday, all while utility bills increase.

“You know each of us wants to make a special holiday for our families, for our kids, for grandma, for an aunt, for whoever is coming over," he said. "Because someone is low-income doesn’t mean they don’t want to have that special holiday as well." 

The pantry receives staple items from the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank, but neighbors saw a growing need for holiday specialties like cake and brownie mixes that fall by the wayside in lieu of more pressing needs.

“It’s about human dignity,” Poliziani said. "And we want to (provide for families in need) in as nice and as dignified way as possible.”

Within hours of Tuesday’s post, he said the donations started filling the shelves.

“People were dropping stuff off all day (Wednesday), all the way until 11 o’clock at night people were brining things," he said. "And then as soon as (Thursday) morning hit and the light went on again down in the pantry, people have been dropping things off all day. It’s been amazing,” he said.

He said giving typically increases this time of year, but the concern for most social service organizations is what happens once the holiday season is over.

“Keeping that momentum going is our challenge and what we work towards. Whenever volunteers call at this time of year we always try to find a way to plug them in, but really focus on that there is an opportunity throughout the year.”

There is a year-round need for items families can’t purchase with food stamp benefits, he said, such as toilet paper, laundry detergent and paper towels.

The pantry is also open Friday and Saturday. Poliziani said he expects hundreds to come by in need.