Courtesy of Northside Common Ministries
Food on the shelves that count toward their weight quota include canned and dry goods such as soups, macaroni and cheese and pasta. Particular items are limited to one or two per person when there are few to offer.

 

By Alyse Horn

On December 10, The Pittsburgh Foundation launched a major community-wide appeal to help food banks in Allegheny and Westmoreland counties meet a critical upsurge in demand during the holiday season.

The Northside Common Ministries Food Pantry is just one of the 16 food banks and pantries that are to benefit from these donations.

Until midnight on December 31, credit card donations of $25 or more are being matched dollar-for-dollar by The Pittsburgh Foundation.

Contributions can be donated directly to the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank or Westmoreland County Food Bank, or to any of the local neighborhood food pantries listed on the site, including Northside Common Ministries Food Pantry.

Donations can be made at www.pittsburghgives.org and the foundation will pay the three percent transaction fees charged by the vendor. Only Visa and MasterCard are accepted, and a valid email is required to receive a receipt for tax purposes.

The foundation initially established a $100,000 fund to match all donations made until the end of December.

Luckily, additional contingency funds were set aside by the foundation to boost its match pool, because donations have already surpassed $100,000, said John Ellis, Vice President for Communications for The Pittsburgh Foundation.

“The spike in hunger in our region is startling, that is why we decided to act,” Ellis said. “We know there are a lot of requests for donations at this time of year, but this is the most essential of human needs and if [people] can help, please do.”

Jay Poliziani, director of Northside Common Ministries, said the donations received will be put in reserve to help the food pantry, “So months where there is less giving we aren’t scrambling quite as much.”

Poliziani said January, February and the summer months are particularly hard on the pantry because there aren’t as many donations.

Among local food pantries, Northside Common Ministries is the largest single client of the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank. Poliziani said in November, NCM served 1,062 people.

Even if the money isn’t donated directly to NCM, Ellis said the pantries listed receive their food from the two main food banks, so “either way the money [people] give will go to help people who need the support of food assistance.”

According to the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank, demand in some local neighborhoods increased last month by up to 40 percent compared with November 2012, and the Westmoreland County Food Bank – which reports that one in six of the population in its service area now qualifies for food assistance – is experiencing an overall rise in demand of approximately 13 percent.

Food bank officials believe that the sharp rise in demand last month was prompted partly by the expiration on November 1 of a boost to the Federal Supplemental Assistance Nutrition Program (SNAP/food stamps) that was introduced as part of the U.S. Government’s stimulus package in 2009. Of those receiving SNAP benefits, 43 percent are children.