22 million pounds of food.
11 SW Pennsylvania counties.
2,500 new households per month.
380+ member agencies, including smaller food banks.
Ensuring that our neighbors and their families have basic needs of life met.
That is what the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank does for our communities.
For many people the name “food bank” is recognizable, but it’s like a lot of things in our society- you think of the it as something that’s just always been there. For people you don’t know. Or maybe you identify it as a government agency that gives out food. You might think it is self-supporting and doesn’t need your help. You’d be wrong.
The Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank(GPCFB) is not a government-run agency. Based in a LEED-certified “green” warehouse, it is a non-profit organization founded on the simplistic, yet monumental idea that we should worry about our neighbor’s basic needs. It’s arrival 30 years ago came from and inspires a passion for change, a call to serve. A need to fill.
So you think now, what can I possibly do? Or you say, someone else will do it. It’s not my problem. I don’t have time. My bills are high too, how can I donate? Maybe you’re so jaded with the thought that ‘things never change, so nothing I do will make a difference anyway’.
What if Joyce Rothermel, co-founder and CEO of GPCFB had said that back in 1980? Where would the hungry in the greater Pittsburgh area be now? Statistics say that 1 in 9 Pennsylvanians (statistics from the GPCFB reports 1 in 7 people in our region) are hungry or “food insecure”- meaning they don’t have the resources to ensure that a healthy meal can go on the table consistently. Somewhere in your town, on your street, and in your school’s there are hungry families.
Hunger is prevalent everywhere. Growing up in a rural community, those who struggle to provide a meal think that people living in the larger towns or the city fare better than they do. Those that live in the city assume that rural areas aren’t afflicted with the same hunger issues as they are. The grass is not greener on either side. All ages, social statuses, residential areas, and employment circumstances face the stress of an empty table.
Now imagine there was nowhere to fill the nutritional gap; no one to motivate us into action; no programs or standards to make feeding our friends, family, coworkers, neighbors a priority. Strip away your political affiliations and preconceived notions of people who receive food and other assistance and think of your daughter, brother, best friend or team coach going to bed hungry each night.
Thankfully, we have somewhere to turn that keeps up on the latest information, has designed and implemented award-winning programs and structured the efficient distribution of donated items. The mission of the GPCFB “is to feed the hungry in southwestern Pennsylvania through a network of partners and to mobilize our region to end hunger.” As Joyce Rothermel shared with me in the interview at the Empty Bowls dinner, “…the most vulnerable people in our society have to be taken care of…and (we must ensure) that the level of funding that we have is sufficient for them to take care of their basic needs.”
The Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank has a 3 decade history of helping people in need. It is more than a mission, though. It is an attitude- of compassion, of service and of healing. Reviewed by members, donors and recipients at www.greatnonprofits.org, one can see that the people who enable the GPCFB to support it’s mission are feeding not just the body’s need, but that of the human spirit as well.
Talking to those at GPCFB, the one thing that is emphasized repeatedly is the word community in the title. The food bank serves the community and is always in need of volunteers, donations and the shared voice of individuals in the counties it assists. It’s easy to not think about the time, effort, organization, dedication and proactive stance it took to start and maintain a vast-encompassing organization like GPBFC. The really hard work has been done. With small acts from each of us we can further the reach and impact. We just need to become part of the Community. Be active, be involved and be supportive of the mission and help “end hunger in our lifetime.” There are simple things to do right from your computer, too. Find out more about how you can help at GPCFB’s website.
Simply Put- Countless people’s lives are enriched through the efforts of the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank.
The Empty Bowls Dinner was held Sunday March 6, 2011 at Rodef Shalom Congregation in Oakland (Pittsburgh, PA). The dinner, sponsored by The Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank and Just Harvest, is a fundraiser in its 16th year of bringing financial support and community awareness to the issues of hunger and poverty.
This event is unique in that all guests wait in line for their serving of soup and bread, bringing awareness to what it feels like to stand in line as someone who is hungry and accept a meal from a stranger.
Do you know what it feels like to be truly hungry? Have you ever gone to bed with an empty stomach and not known if you will be able to get the next meal? Or have you put your child to bed knowing that they have not eaten enough, or at all, that day because you just didn’t have enough food. Have you skipped meals so that your children can have a little more on their plate?
When I am talking about being hungry, it isn’t that you ran an hour late from work and dinner is now cold. It isn’t that you opened the refrigerator and couldn’t find anything you liked. It isn’t that you’ve had busy week and couldn’t get to the grocery store and now have thin cupboards.
It is literally that there isn’t food available to create a healthy meal. It is lack of funds, even when you are busting your rear to make things work, to provide dinner. It is liking just about anything you can make a dinner out of because your stomach has lived on air and water for two days or more.
Hunger is waiting for the next paycheck, so you can pay a bill and eek out $40 to buy groceries for 5 for the week. Hunger is letting your kids eat first so they can concentrate in school the next day. Hunger is usually hiding all of these things from your children and from the people who know you, while you feel ill and despondent.
There is a pervasive misconception that people who are hungry or poor are miscreants; debase and unworthy individuals who just won’t work to get themselves out of their situation. I beg you to understand that is not the case. Once I stopped hiding how difficult times were and opened up in conversations to friends, families and neighbors, more and more people told me how “food insecure” or hungry they were. I have intelligent, educated, good, kindhearted people in my life that have to decide whether to pay a bill or feed their family; get produce and meat or put gas in the car; let their children be involved in school/community activities like the other kids or buy food they actually like to eat.
Trust me. I know firsthand how tough it is to make those decisions. A difficult situation put me there and it has taken time and assistance to get over that hurdle. BUT. I have people in my circle who are still hungry every day.
Without the efforts of the good people at places like the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank and Just Harvest there would be no recourse for those who suffer from hunger. I urge you to check out the links to their information and do what you can. And if you are having trouble feeding yourself and your family, I beg you to set aside your pride or stubbornness and ask them for help.
Rich or poor, hungry or fed, we can all be activists and supporters in the fight against hunger. The Empty Bowls Dinner brought a community to the table. Now, I invite you to the table. What can you do to fill an empty bowl?
Simply Put- You can’t understand the physical, emotional and psychological pains of hunger unless you’ve experienced it, but you can help put an end to those feelings for others.