NHCO food pantry relocating to Millvale
North Hills Community Outreach (NHCO) is relocating its Millvale food pantry from Christ Lutheran Church to the Millvale Community Center’s first floor. The new location will open April 17.
Maria Christina, NHCO Millvale outreach manager, said that the nonprofit opened its original Millvale office at Christ Lutheran Church in 1993; the church was already operating its own Millvale Food Cupboard at that time. NHCO offered the church assistance in addressing food insecurity. In 2014, after a request from Christ Lutheran, NHCO adopted control of pantry operations.
The borough, which operates the center, is charging NHCO $1 annually to lease the space.
NHCO currently employs eight staff and numerous volunteers handling case and transportation management and tax preparation in its office on the Millvale Community Center’s second floor, according to Amber Deemer, food pantry coordinator and registered dietitian. Housing administrative personnel and the pantry in the same building will simplify access to services, said Jennifer Kissel, communications and development director.
The new, first-floor location will provide easier pantry access for patrons who have mobility issues compared to the previous pantry, Deemer said.
At the community center, NHCO employees and volunteers will unload food shipments arriving at a loading dock adjacent to the food pantry.
“At the old location they were pulling it into the parking lot and we’d have to find a way to wheel the carts with the thousands of pounds of food into the main entrance of the building. But the difficulty was there were stairs that go from the main entrance of the church down to the food pantry,” Deemer said.
The Millvale Community Center site will offer access to food during emergencies.
“The Millvale community and NHCO are extremely grateful to CLC (Christ Lutheran Church) for founding and operating the food cupboard so successfully for many decades,” Christina said, noting that the two have partnered on flood relief efforts and other initiatives. “… We look forward to a continuing, strong partnership.”
With the new pantry, Deemer aims to reduce the stigma of food insecurity and bring the community together for blood pressure screenings, nutrition education games, food demonstrations and tastings.
She envisions a “pantry on wheels” that will use a system of rolling carts that NHCO staff can move from storage into the center’s Community Room during pantry hours and store again, so others may use the room.
Deemer said client families will match with volunteers during their visits. They will choose food allotments such as cereal, fresh produce, soups, meat and bread based upon their family sizes.
“Then, they’ll (the volunteers will) pack it up and we’ll have some grocery carts and volunteers will help families out to their car or out the front door, so they can walk home,” she said.
“We just want it to be an enjoyable place where people can come get food.”
During the last fiscal year, the Millvale pantry served 128 families, according to Kissel. NHCO’s other pantry locations are at its main Hampton office and in Bellevue inside the AGH-Suburban General Hospital campus.
The Millvale Food Pantry distributes food to registered participants on the third Wednesday of each month from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Clients have not experienced a gap in service with the relocation.
Individuals or families seeking food assistance may call North Hills Community Outreach’s main office at 412-487-6316, option 1 or NHCO’s Millvale office at 412-408-3830. Low-income families residing in the 15209 zip code could be eligible to attend the Millvale pantry. NHCO will refer Northern Allegheny County residents in other zip codes to an appropriate pantry in their areas.