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Hampton/Shaler

Glenshaw Presbyterian program strengthens fight against food insecurity

| Sunday, Dec. 10, 2017, 9:00 p.m.
Erica Cochran, NHCO food pantry coordinator, said that it's the volunteers who make the difference.
Erica Cochran, NHCO food pantry coordinator, said that it's the volunteers who make the difference.

Glenshaw Presbyterian Church is collaborating with Giant Eagle and several local nonprofits to combat hunger in Western Pennsylvania.

For more than a year, church volunteers have transported surplus bread and baked goods from the Harmarville Giant Eagle Express to North Hills Community Outreach's Allison Park food pantry on Mondays and The Lighthouse Foundation in Butler on Wednesdays. They take frozen meat to Etna's Bread of Life Food Pantry on Thursdays.

“We actually do intermittent storage at our church, like, we pick up on Saturdays and Sundays, and we leave everything at our church,” said Duane McDonough, who coordinates the food ministry. “We have freezers and refrigerators at our church and it can hold two days worth of pick up very nicely.”

The program evolved out of Glenshaw Presbyterian Church's participation in The Neighborhood Table, a free community dinner at Sharpsburg's Roots of Faith Ministry Center. The church contracts with the Harmarville Giant Eagle Express to cater the dinner on the second Thursday of the month. While arranging the dinner plans, Giant Eagle officials asked if the church could benefit from surplus food donations, thus launching the food ministry.

McDonough said he found coordinating the food pick-up and drop-off schedules challenging because many pantries could not accept donations around his church volunteers' itineraries and did not have additional food storage space far in advance of when their pantries are open to the public.

“I called probably 20 different food banks,” he said.

During their hour to hour-and-a-half shifts, volunteer drivers use a key code to access sealed bins at the Giant Eagle Express filled with bread, cookies, pies, muffins, cake, turnovers, frozen chicken and bacon placed inside blue bins. All of the food is viable and beneficial to the food insecure.

Giant Eagle spokesman Dick Roberts said the retail chain has been a longtime supporter of area food banks, pantries and others fighting hunger in our communities.

“Additionally, we began connecting area stores such as our Harmarville Giant Eagle Express with 412 Food Rescue to complement our food bank activities,” Roberts said. “All of these efforts allow Giant Eagle to continue our commitment to giving back to the communities we serve.”

Founded in 2015, 412 Food Rescue works with food providers to rescue unsellable but healthy food by redirecting it to the food insecure.

Jennifer England, 412 Food Rescue operations director, said the organization is “just kind of making it easier for everyone.”

McDonough said Charlotte Butler, 412 Food Rescue donations coordinator, serves as a liaison for the church volunteers, ensuring that the food is picked up and not discarded.

“Our drivers, we'll go out, every day we're scheduled,” McDonough said. “We'll go out Christmas Day. New Year's Day. I mean, we'll be out there and our drivers have keys to the church if the doors were locked.”

“They're part of a growing trend making sure that they're neighbors are not facing hunger. … Ending hunger is a verb, not a one-time event,” England said, regarding the Glenshaw Presbyterian Church food ministry.

Erica Cochran, NHCO food pantry coordinator, said she is grateful to have volunteers willing to pick up food donations.

“We understand that it's not always possible for people to bring their donation to us. So here we have two important things going on … GetGo offering us food that would otherwise go to waste and Glenshaw Presbyterian volunteering to pick up this food on a regular schedule so it can go to someone in need.”

Erica Cebzanov is a Tribune-Review contributor.

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