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Fayette, Westmoreland communities challenged to help hungry

| Friday, March 1, 2013, 10:45 a.m.

For the past several years, philanthropist Alan Feinstein has donated $1 million of his money to be distributed to organizations across the country that help the hungry.

Known as the Feinstein Challenge, participating agencies and organizations can get donations — made March 1 through April 30 — matched or at least supplemented by funding offered in the challenge.

Both the Westmoreland County Food Bank and Fayette County Community Action Agency Inc., which operates the Fayette County Food Bank, will take the challenge and hope people in the community will help.

“We have been participating for 10 years, since 2003,” Westmoreland County Food Bank development director Jennifer Miller said. “We received $585 from the Feinstein Challenge last year, and the most we received was in 2011 at $839.”

The Fayette organization has participated for several years, taking advantage of the offered funds.

“Fayette County Community Action Agency has participated in the Feinstein Challenge for the past 10 years and has received various amounts through the challenge,” food bank project manager Jamie Brink said. “The money received from the Feinstein Foundation benefits the FCCAA Food Bank and those served through our network of 49 pantries.”

The springtime months are traditionally slow for contributors to food banks, which generally enjoy an increase in donations at Thanksgiving and Christmas when people are more inclined to remember those in need. But the need for many in our area is constant, the women said.

“We continue to see a rise in the amount of people seeking assistance,” Miller said. “Those we are seeing new are the working poor and those who are now finding themselves as single heads of households. The public can help by making monetary donations to the food bank.”

Even the smallest donation can go a long way, Miller said.

“For every $1 donated, we can purchase $5 worth of food. We are seeing over 7,000 families, which is about 15,000 individuals, and we have over 20,000 more that are qualified for our services but are not receiving them,” she said.

The need stretches through the entire area as well.

The Fayette County Food Bank is the county's designated warehouse for collection and storage of food for the needy, Brink said.

“Last year, more than 1.8 million pounds of food were collected and distributed to over 10,000 individuals,” Brink said. “Distribution takes place through a network of 49 volunteer food pantries and congregate feeding sites.”

The Feinstein Challenge is a great opportunity for the organizations to stretch their donations even further as they continue to battle hunger.

“I believe that each of us was put here on Earth to help those in need,” Feinstein said.

Anyone interested in contributing to the Feinstein Challenge can call the Westmoreland County Food Bank at 724-468-8660 or visit www.westmorelandfoodbank.org. Those who would like to contribute to the Fayette organization can call 724-437-6050 or visit www.fccaa.org.

Marilyn Forbes is a freelance writer.

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