Jesse Sharrard named new director of Squirrel Hill Food Pantry
TransitionsSupporting the community

Jesse Sharrard named new director of Squirrel Hill Food Pantry

“I think I’ve got a lot of compassion for people and their circumstances, their need to eat and their need to feed their families.”

Jesse Sharrard (Photo courtesy of JFCS)
Jesse Sharrard (Photo courtesy of JFCS)

Jesse Sharrard developed his lifelong love of food growing up in western Massachusetts, working during his Tulane University undergraduate years in New Orleans and studying at Le Cordon Bleu Institute of Culinary Arts.

But after moving to Pittsburgh in 2003 and serving food at LeMont, a five-star Mt. Washington restaurant with stunning views of the Golden Triangle, Sharrard started wondering how he could combine his love of food with his desire to help people.

In 2010, he began working in nutrition and food safety for the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank in Duquesne. And, on March 18, JFCS announced Sharrard as the new director of its Squirrel Hill Food Pantry.

“It was a natural growth,” said Sharrard, when asked about his transition from serving food to helping provide it to those in need. “I think I’ve got a lot of compassion for people and their circumstances, their need to eat and their need to feed their families.”

In addition to a strong background in culinary arts and his tenure at the Duquesne-based community food bank, Sharrard worked in nutrition education and food insecurity efforts at the Allegheny County Health Department and Community Kitchen Pittsburgh. At the latter, which is based on Hazelwood’s Flowers Avenue, Sharrard served as the director of education and programs.

His first day at the JFCS pantry, near the intersection of Hazelwood and Murray avenues, was March 11. He said he’s already thrilled by his can-do staff and volunteers.

“I’m excited by how energetic and dedicated the pantry staff are,” he said. “I’m looking forward to getting to know the clientele, finding out what their needs are and finding new ways to help people through our work.”

Sharrard said he’s eager to learn how to more specifically address pantry visitors’ needs. Many, for example, are recent immigrants whose primary language is Russian. He has at least one staffer who’s bilingual but hopes to bring in additional bilingual volunteers.

“I’m hoping to connect with local dual English/Russian speakers to get them involved in the pantry efforts,” Sharrard said. “I’m looking forward to digging in and finding new ways to make sure Pittsburgh is welcoming to as many people as it can be.”

Sharrard continues to be inspired by food options — and food culture — in the Pittsburgh area, particularly in the fresh markets and specialty delis of the Strip District.

He hopes he can integrate some of that love into what JFCS does at its food pantry.

“You can make a fantastic meal with fairly simple ingredients,” Sharrard said. “At the pantry, we do everything we can to help as many people as we can.”

Sharrard is quickly winning high marks from members of JFCS’ leadership team.

“We are so fortunate to have someone with Jesse’s background and expertise joining us to lead the JFCS Squirrel Hill Food Pantry,” said Jordan Golin, JFCS’ president and CEO. “We constantly look for innovative ways to support community members who are struggling, and we look forward to Jesse bringing his ideas and energy to our community.”

Sharrard, who is not Jewish, lives in Greenfield with his wife and their two children, ages 10 and 13.

As a trained chef, Sharrard said he still enjoys cooking and does it almost nightly for his family.

“I sometimes joke that I run a private restaurant,” he laughed.

Sharrard also loves his adopted hometown.

“The Strip District is still one of my favorite parts about Pittsburgh,” he said. “I also love the views, which are incredible and, of course, the sports teams. The history of everything gives Pittsburgh a unique feel, that it’s definitely someplace special.”

The food pantry is open five days a week, serving residents of the 15217 ZIP code — as well as people outside that ZIP code on an emergency-only basis. It offers extensive kosher and Halal options.

“We’re here,” Sharrard said, “and we’re ready to help.” PJC

Justin Vellucci is a freelance writer living in Pittsburgh.

Squirrel Hill Food Pantry hours can be found at

read more: