New system will help speed up food distribution lines

  • By C.R. Nelson
    For the Observer-Reporter
February 28, 2014
Produce to People volunteer Bly Blystone, left, and Conner Sites-Bowen of the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank, were hard at work Thursday helping more than 600 families brave the weather to get fresh produce at the Greene County Fairgrounds. Sites-Bowen is holding out the food bank’s new PassCard, which will eliminate the need to use paper forms for the identifying information that has to be gathered each month. - C.R. Nelson / For the Observer-Reporter Order a Print

WAYNESBURG – It was bitterly cold and windy last Thursday morning, but the line was still long at the Greene County Fairgrounds. Longtime Produce to People volunteer Albert Marsh shook his head, amazed.

“I got here at 5 a.m. and there were 10 cars here already. I’ve asked people why they come so early, and they say they want to make sure they‘re first just in case we run out of something. I tell them the trucks bring enough of everything and take stuff back when we’re done. But they still come early. By 6 a.m. this morning, there was a line, and boy was it cold.”

Every fourth Thursday, the trucks from the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank brave every kind of weather to bring free fresh fruit, vegetables, canned goods and the occasional treat of frozen chicken, fish or turkey to those willing to brave that same weather to bag it and take it home.

“We’ve been doing Produce to People here for seven years,” coordinator Sister Audrey Quinn said.

The fairground building was full of tables laden with food that was a mystery to the volunteers and those standing in line until the pallets were unloaded.

This month’s offering was worth waiting for – golden designer plums with pink pointed ends, rosy nectarines, cabbage, carrots, tiny multicolored potatoes, yellow onions, gingerbread cookie dough, Greek yogurt and cans of baked beans. And as Marsh pointed out, there was more than enough of everything.

“But don’t forget to bring your own bags and boxes. That’s one thing we don’t have enough of,” Marsh said.

The doors are scheduled to open at 10 a.m. and close at noon but, “We open the doors as soon as we have the trucks unloaded and the tables set up,” Quinn said. Despite, or perhaps because of, the hard months of winter that just won’t end, the long lines haven’t shrunk. “Every month we have between 500 and 700 hundred income-eligible families coming for produce,” she said.

Marsh was one of a small army of volunteers helping pass out food, or bundled up and pulling wagons and dollies loaded with bulging boxes across the parking and helping load them into backseats and trunks.

Those coming for the good food first visited a line of tables along one wall where name, family size and income eligibility was written down by volunteers. But today there was something new – a chance for those with the right identification to sign up and be given a Produce to People PassCard.

“This card can be swiped and the family information is then recorded digitally, which will speed up the whole process,” Conner Sites-Bowen of the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank explained. “Next month, we’ll have the system set up to swipe the cards, along with the paper form for those who aren’t signed up yet. To get a card, you need to bring something that has a current household address on it – a utility bill, rent receipt or a driver’s license less than three months old.”

Produce to People is a monthly free food program for income-eligible households and Quinn, who is director of The Salvation Army’s Greene County Service Center at 131 W. First St., Waynesburg, is available to sign up new cardholders before the March 27 distribution.

Call 724-852-1479 for more information.



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