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Westmoreland County Food Bank forced to cut some items

Renatta Signorini
| Thursday, Dec. 10, 2015, 12:01 a.m.

Thousands of families who are assisted by the Westmoreland County Food Bank will be seeing fewer groceries in their packages.

Low holiday donations from the community — combined with a lack of state funding — have forced the food bank to cut several items out of regular allotments distributed to those in need starting next month, said Jennifer Miller, director of development.

“We're hoping that we don't have to make any more cuts,” Miller said. “These were very drastic decisions that needed to be made.”

Agencies across Pennsylvania are feeling the repercussions of a state budget that is more than five months overdue. Without a spending plan in place, those groups are left without the state funding on which they rely heavily to provide services to the public.

Food bank officials announced Wednesday that beginning in January, food packages will no longer include one canned vegetable item, spaghetti sauce, spaghetti, shelf-stable milk and potatoes.

The food bank receives about $300,000 from the state annually. That makes up about 60 percent of its food-purchasing budget, Miller said.

“This has become quite the perfect storm,” said Kris Douglas, director of Westmoreland County Food Bank in a news release. “We have taken from our reserves to continue to provide the quality and quantity of services for our consumers, but at this point, we just can't keep up.”

Purchases for holiday meals were made in advance and were not affected by the dwindling funds, Miller said. But low donations during the holiday season could have more of an impact on food being purchased for the beginning months of 2016, she said.

The food bank serves about 7,600 families, or 16,500 people, who receive a seven- to 10-day supply of food as they need it. Food packages will still include meat, juice, macaroni and cheese, canned and fresh vegetables, and other items.

“A lot of people are making tough decisions between heating and eating,” Miller said. “When we start to have to cut, it's a hard pill to swallow.”

Renatta Signorini is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-837-5374 or rsignorini@tribweb.com.

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