The JFCS Squirrel Hill Food Pantry, which serves more than 1,500 families struggling with food insecurity, continues to operate at full force during the COVID-19 crisis.
To ensure the health and safety of its clients and staff, the pantry has modified its food pick-up procedures. Clients now receive pre-bagged produce, poultry, grains and other food curbside rather than entering the facility to choose their products, according to Rebecca Remson, director of development and communications at Jewish Family and Community Services Pittsburgh.
Clients are provided with enough food to cover meals for their families for four days with each pick-up. The pantry provides kosher food for those who require it.
The pantry has suspended its volunteer program, which accounts for 400 hours a month of labor, according to Matthew Bolton, director of the Squirrel Hill Food Pantry. Staff is now running distribution, he said.
Clients can also tap the pantry for counseling.
“Our critical needs social workers are on call all day, speaking with worried community members and connecting them with available services and resources,” a need heightened during the COVID-19 crisis, according to Remson. “The social workers on staff are talking to clients and making sure that people are on their feet and not falling through the cracks. People can call us if there are in trouble, not just with food, but if they are having trouble paying rent or other bills. We can advise them about resources.”
With Passover on the horizon, the pantry “is ramping up to distribute an additional 5000 pounds of food to clients,” Remson noted. This is the typical increase in amount of food provided by the pantry for Passover.
Because the pantry is “expecting more people in food crisis” in the coming weeks due to the economic fallout of the coronavirus — including layoffs or people downshifting to part-time work — the Squirrel Hill Food Pantry has launched a fundraising campaign “to shore up any possible instability in our food supply chain so an increase in cost and a change in our purchasing power will not impact the clients we serve,” Remson said.
“We are definitely expecting an influx of people,” said Bolton. “Anyone who has a need can come to the pantry. We are serving everybody who’s coming. We are in triage, helping anyone with a need.” PJC