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Pittsburgh Foundation makes urgent appeal to feed hungry

| Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2013, 11:27 a.m.
Phyllis Nelson,  67, food services case manager for East End Cooperative Ministry and Paul Lenzi, 56, purchasing and receiving coordinator for the Ministry take inventory of the center's food pantry, Tuesday.  The ministry is one of the food pantries that will benefit from a $100,000 matching fund set up by The Pittsburgh Foundation for food banks and affiliated pantries.
Phyllis Nelson, 67, food services case manager for East End Cooperative Ministry and Paul Lenzi, 56, purchasing and receiving coordinator for the Ministry take inventory of the center's food pantry, Tuesday. The ministry is one of the food pantries that will benefit from a $100,000 matching fund set up by The Pittsburgh Foundation for food banks and affiliated pantries.

The Pittsburgh Foundation is trying to put food on the tables of more people in Allegheny and Westmoreland counties.

Through Dec. 31, the foundation will match $100,000 or more in donations so that food banks and affiliated pantries in the two counties can feed the needy.

“There is a tremendous amount of need we're seeing in the community right now from families suffering from hunger. You don't expect to see hunger as a real need in our community, but it is,” said Grant Oliphant, president and CEO of The Pittsburgh Foundation.

He said the foundation has an obligation to lead on this issue because it has a fundraising platform for contributors.

Donors can give online at www.PittsburghGives.org to the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank, the Westmoreland County Food Bank or any of 15 local neighborhood food pantries and affiliated organizations listed on the website. To use the site, donors must make credit card donations of at least $25. The foundation will pay the 3 percent transaction fees charged by the vendor to make sure all gifts go to the hungry.

The number of new households seeking assistance at the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank averages about 3,200 a month, according to the food bank.

“The demand is as high as I've ever seen it,” said Lisa Scales, CEO of the food bank.

She attributed the rising demand for food, in part, to the Nov. 1 expiration of a boost in the food stamps program that the federal stimulus package provided in 2009. The food bank struggles to pay the cost of transporting food.

“Donated food is coming from all corners of the country,” Scales said. For example, the apples that the food bank distributes come from as far away as Washington state.

The East End Cooperative Ministry, which is among the foundation's beneficiaries, serves more than 100 people a day through its hunger programs, said Carrie Hill, spokeswoman for the East Liberty organization. Last year, that number was 70 to 80.

“The neighborhoods we serve are continuing to struggle from the economic downturn we saw in 2008 and 2009,” she said.

The foundation hopes to raise at least $200,000, including the match. Oliphant said it has set aside an undisclosed amount of money to add to the pool if it meets its fundraising target.

Bill Zlatos is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7828 or bzlatos@tribweb.com.

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