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Fay-West food banks, pantries seek community support

| Monday, Nov. 19, 2012, 12:02 a.m.
Christmas is a time for giving and area food pantries are hoping that community generosity reaches them. Chuck Prevot, Connellsville Community Ministries executive director, stocks the shelves he hopes to see get fuller for the upcoming holiday season. Marilyn Forbes | for the Daily Courier nov 2012

Thanksgiving and Christmas are a joyous time of the year for most families, but unfortunately, there are many in the Fay-West region who may not be having the merriest of holidays, and local food banks and pantries need support from the communities to help those families in need.

“The Westmoreland County Food Bank always sees an influx of people this time of year who are in need to help make a nice holiday for their families,” said Jennifer Miller, WCFB development director. “However, in the past several years those additional families have continued to stay on and still receive the services. With the funding cuts that we have realized, it has made it especially difficult to provide ample food for our consumers, so the community support is appreciated now more than ever.”

Many area organizations, groups and churches use this time to year to host food drives for the needy, and area pantries and distribution sites welcome the help.

“We have some new food drives this year and local businesses have really stepped up to help out,” said Jamie Brink, Fayette County Community Action Food Bank project manager.

Brink said that in addition to seeking help with regular holiday meal staples, people are simply more in need now than the rest of the year.

“We see an increase (in need) starting usually in mid-September through December,” Brink said. “Our call volume then really increases.”

Brink said the increase is due in part to the time of year and the rising cost of food.

“Unfortunately, people are finding that the price of food is going up and that their food stamps aren't going as far as they used to,” Brink said.

Connellsville Area Community Ministries houses the Connellsville food pantry. Executive director Chuck Prevot agreed that the holidays are the busiest for the distribution site.

“November and December are our busiest months,” Prevot said, adding that they usually supply food to about 1,100 people in the Connellsville area every month. “Everyone gets the government food and then they get to select two extra items, and that is where the donated food comes in.”

Prevot said he hopes to see an increase in community support to help offset the increase in need that is offset by the government cuts in funding.

“We are seeing a 7 percent increase every year and just think, over a five-year period that equals 35 percent,” Prevot said. “We are seeing a big increase in need but not in food.”

Prevot said that any nonperishable food items are welcome, and items like canned meats, tuna and cereal are premiums for families who are trying to supply good meals to their families.

“We hope that people in the community feel generous and continue to donate,” Brink said. “It's simple. There are many people in our area who need food and it's increasing.”

“Any support from the community is always welcome and much appreciated,” Prevot added.

Connellsville Area Community Ministries is also expecting new, unwrapped toys for children of all ages.

The center is open from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays. Phone number is 724-628-1120.

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