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Westmoreland County food bank needs help for holidays

Mary Pickels
| Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2010

The Westmoreland County Food Bank is asking residents to conduct food drives to help assist client and emergency needs through the new year and beyond.

"We have always tried to get more people to do more food drives around the holidays. It can be organizations, clubs, schools, colleges, whoever wants to do it is fine," Jennifer Miller, food bank development director, said Monday.

The food bank in Salem supplies more than 15,000 county residents with food each month.

"Each year we experience funding cuts from sources that help supply food to those in need throughout our community. It is disheartening when we can't provide what we normally would because of decreased funding and delayed reimbursements," Chief Executive Officer Marlene Kozak said in a news release.

"We have been seeing so many more people around the holidays that sometimes stock is depleted," Miller said. "When we come back for the new year, that makes it even harder. People have a tendency to hold drives around Thanksgiving and Christmas, and that's great, and we appreciate it."

But after the holidays, community food donations sometimes slow down. A food drive can help ensure the shelves are stocked.

"We had a lot more (requests for assistance) at Thanksgiving. We don't have final numbers, but it was more than in previous years," Miller said. "We figure Christmas will be the same. ... We would rather have too much than not enough. It can always go into next year."

Miller said drive sponsors vary throughout the year, and some organizations can be relied on for regular contributions.

"We would love to increase that," she said. "We have a lot of people call and say, 'I just need help. Where can I go• Can I come there?'"

Earlier this year, Wilhelm said the agency increased donations of nonperishable food items by 10 percent in 2009 by increasing the number of food drives, including those held at high school football games and at local Wal-Mart and Giant Eagle stores.

Donated items must be nonperishable and can include canned or boxed items, juices, pasta, canned meats, sauces and prepared foods. They must have the original manufacturer's label, or they cannot be distributed.

They must be free from obvious defects or contamination -- no popped tops on cans, mold or rust on cans or bottles.

The food bank cannot accept homemade foods, baby food in jars, prescription drugs or any items that have been opened or have a broken seal.

Additional Information:

How you can help

To set up a food drive for the Westmoreland County Food Bank, contact Louise Wilhelm at 724-468-8660, ext. 13, or e-mail .

The food bank's website provides information on how to assemble a 'food drive packet.'

Food can be dropped in bins at Mastrorocco's Market in Derry; Route 30 Shop 'n Save, Unity; Latrobe Wal-Mart and K-Mart; Ligonier Giant Eagle; Enterprise Rent-A-Car locations in Latrobe, Mt. Pleasant, North Huntingdon, Greensburg and Murrysville; Greensburg YMCA; the Science Center at Westmoreland County Community College near Youngwood; Goodwill of Southwestern Pennsylvania in Greensburg, Mt. Pleasant and North Huntingdon; Hempfield Township Athletic Center; Belle Vernon Chiropractic, and the Boy Scouts of America office in Greensburg.

Donations will be accepted at the food bank, 100 Devonshire Drive, Salem Township, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday through Dec. 22. Offices will be closed Dec. 23 through 31.

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