Pittsburgh Food Bank Rings In 40th Year, Amidst Record High Food Distribution

Dec 22, 2020

On today's program: The Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank is seeing food insecurity peak in the pandemic, as it celebrates 40 years of service; NPR Morning Edition host David Greene leaves the network this month and reflects on what he might do next; and a Pittsburgh native is one of 18 astronauts involved in NASA’s Artemis program, which aims to put humans on the moon again. 

Ahead of the holidays, Pittsburgh Food Bank addresses more need than ever

(0:00 - 6:03)

 

Food insecurity and hunger are at an all-time high because of the COVID-19 pandemic. This means the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank is working harder than ever to provide food assistance.

 

At the same time, the Food Bank is celebrating 40 years of serving the community this month. That’s hundreds of millions of meals served to people in Allegheny and the surrounding counties since 1980.

 

Lisa Scales, president and CEO of the Food Bank, says since the pandemic began, the organization has distributed 30 percent more meals than in the same time period in 2019. 

“Because of the pandemic, we’ve seen a significant increase in need just in the last two weeks,” says Scales. 

The holidays are an exceptionally busy time for the organization, when families are trying to not only provide meals but also gifts, Scales explains. 

The pandemic has also upended the food bank’s regular distribution programs, and forced them to create new paths of distribution. 

“We had to cancel our produce to people distributions, where people would line up, as many as one hundred or two hundred people,” says Scales. “We established our drive-up distributions that were low touch distribution where we were putting emergency food boxes in the trunk of people’s cars.”

Scales says it became apparent quickly that the pandemic would affect people’s food security early on, and starting in the spring the organization began to make plans for the next two years to manage rising needs. 

“I would love to be able to say we will be able to close our doors,” says Scales, when looking to the next 40 years of the organization. “But we know that there are people who will always be in need of services.”

Morning Edition host David Greene says despite leaving NPR, he will still be telling stories

(6:09 - 13:26)

At the end of this month, the warm, friendly, curious, inquisitive voice of David Greene will depart Morning Edition as a host

Greene spent 15 years at NPR, the last eight with Morning Edition.

“This was the hardest decision of my career,” says Greene. “After eight years, the hours certainly wear you down. And who knows, maybe I’ll be back some day, but it just feels like trying something new: The time is right for that.”

Greene says he’s loved talking to a variety of people, all of whom have a story to tell. He admits, there are moments when interviews are very difficult. 

“You’ve got to just feel the weight of that responsibility, but also treat someone like a human being,” says Greene. 

Greene isn’t sure what’s next, but he’s taking some time to think. 

One opportunity may be another book, or a venture with his wife that would combine food, drinks and storytelling. 

“So far, it’s been kind of fun to just open up the possibilities,” says Greene. 

His last broadcast will be December 29, 2020.  

A Pittsburgh native joins the ranks of NASA astronauts in the Artemis program

(13:34 - 17:58)

 

NASA plans to send a manned mission to the moon for the first time since 1972. The Artemis program has an ambitious timeline, 2024. 

The goal is twofold: return a man and put the first woman on the moon, and establish sustainable lunar exploration. 

One of the 18 astronauts selected for this program is Pittsburgh-native Warren “Woody” Hoburg

Hoburg says his role is to train to be ready to fly in space, although it’s not a flight assignment at this time.  

“Many of our astronauts are used for things like hardware evaluations, developing the procedures that are gonna be needed for Artemis, working with some of the companies that are building the human landing system,” Hoburg explains. 

The Artemis program aims to take astronauts into deep space for a long term assignment. Hoburg says those logistics and planning are much more complicated than a trip in low-Earth orbit. 

“We have to deal with radiation, we have to deal with longer duration missions where we need more food and consumables, and more fuel,” he says. 

As a kid, Hoburg built amature rockets, and eventually graduated to building large components for homemade rockets in his parents' garage.

“In hindsight, participating in amature rocketry is what ultimately got me excited about aerospace engineering,” says Hoburg. 

Following the tradition of other Pittsburgher astronauts Mike Fincke and Andrew Morgan, Hoburg says he will plan to take a “Terrible Towel" into space. 

The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s daily news program. Tune in weekdays at 9 a.m. to hear newsmakers and innovators take an in-depth look at stories important to the Pittsburgh region. Find more episodes of The Confluence here or wherever you get your podcasts.