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Rostraver Food Pantry continues to meet need

| Saturday, Dec. 13, 2014, 1:30 p.m.

Over the years, the need has not wavered, but grown, notes Rostraver Food Pantry coordinator Richard Currie.

But the pantry has always met that need.

“When I began, the number of clients was maybe 170,” said Currie, who has been associated with the Rostraver Food Pantry for the past eight years, the last four as coordinator.

“And now, we‘re at more than 230 (clients). The need has grown because people don't have jobs.”

The Rostraver Food Pantry was one of the first food pantries to become associated with the Westmoreland County Food Bank when it was formed more than 30 years ago.

The Rostraver Food Pantry is located at Fells United Methodist Church.

The Westmoreland County Food Bank operates out of Delmont. It receives its food from federal, state and local contributions.

Countywide, there are 44 food pantries and 62 member agencies, 18 of which serve meals as opposed to handing out food. In addition to Rostraver, the county food bank services two food pantries in Monessen — one each out of the Salvation Army's Mon Valley Citadel and the Orchard Church — as well as West Newton and Smithton.

The Westmoreland County Food Bank distributes food to numerous food pantries on various days of week throughout the month. The food pantry repackaged food for its clients in bags.

“It takes us 90 minutes to get the food ready and then they come between 10:30 and 11:30 to receive food,” Currie said.

More than 60 volunteers work monthly at the food pantry.

In addition, Operation Fresh Express provides locally grown produce and other food a couple times a year, on a non-food bank day — usually a Monday. Two truckloads of food is distributed to clients of the food bank.

The food pantry distributes 80 to 100 pounds of food for each client. Distributions are held on the third Thursday of the month.

To be eligible, the household income must be less than 150 percent of poverty guidelines. Clients are recertified on a yearly basis as per address and income.

“I have clients who frequently call and say, ‘I have a job and don't meet the guidelines, and I'm going to drop out,'” Currie sad.

“Sometimes they drop out and come back in. I keep paperwork so that if they fall on bad times they can come back in.”

Typically, clients receive a large selection of canned goods, a mix of fruit and vegetables, some type of frozen meat, cereal, pasta and pasta sauce, macaroni and cheese, fresh produce and frozen bread products.

“We provide local fresh produce for our people and usually potatoes,” Currie said.

Clients also receive a voucher to purchase a turkey at Thanksgiving and a turkey, ham or large roast at Christmas from a local grocery store.

The Belle Vernon Ministerium provides about $20,000 annually to support the Rostraver Food Pantry. The money is raised from ecumenical services throughout the year at its various member churches.

“At the county level, they say that 50 percent of the support comes from governmental agencies, local, state and federal and 50 percent from contributions of money or local produce, bakeries, super markets,” Currie said.

Local service clubs and chambers of commerce also support the food pantry. Scouting and mail carriers' food drives and collection boxes at local supermarkets and churches also provides the food pantry with supplemental canned and dry goods.

To apply, call the food pantry at 724-469-1286 or come on day of distribution between 10:30 and 11:30 a.m. at the Fells United Methodist Church and apply.

“If you call ahead of time, paperwork is ready and it will be easy to get food to you,” Currie said.

“In the time I've been here, we've not had an eligible person come through the door and not able to provide something for them. We've not had to turn anyone away.”

Chris Buckley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2642 or cbuckley@tribweb.com.

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