There’s still a need for food in our community, one year since the pandemic began

PITTSBURGH — March marks one year since the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank started hosting mass distribution events in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.

So far, the food bank has distributed more than 37 million meals to hungry families and 12 million pounds of fresh produce with the help of 6000 volunteers.

“We’ve seen a 42% increase in food insecurity rates in southwestern Pennsylvania,” said Brian Gulish, vice president of marketing and communications.

That number is a big reason why the food bank is still working harder than ever. Unfortunately, the need for food has to do with something else people can’t find: jobs.

And Gulish says if and when unemployment numbers go down, the following year will likely be similar to the previous one.

“Right now our thoughts are, whenever we get somewhat back to normal, we still anticipate 12 to 18 months of increased food needs, because we don’t expect everything to jump back right to where it was,” he said.

That’s why the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank is constantly trying to come up with safer ways to get food to people.

The best way - and safest - are drive-up distributions.

But for some local churches, it’s been a struggle. For the second week in a row, a New Kensington church and another one in Leechburg had to cancel their distributions because of delivery issues.

The Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank has added more than 130 partners since the pandemic began, and when it comes to volunteers, there’s also no shortage.

“The people want to help Pittsburgh, always have been about helping each other and that’s one thing that this pandemic has shown: Our neighbors are here for each other,” Gulish said.