Food pantries need donations during winter lull

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Greater Washington County Food Bank and its satellite pantries around the area are asking for help to fill their cupboards during the typical winter lull in food and monetary donations following the holidays.


This time of year is especially hard for area food banks and pantries because it falls between the holidays and major canned food donation drives that will help stock the pantries for months.


Mary Ann Loar, assistant director for the food bank distribution center located in Eighty Four, noted they’re not at critically low levels, but their stock becomes more depleted in February and March.


“We try to get awareness out there that we’re here trying to feed people every month of the year,” Loar said. “Hunger doesn’t have a season.”


The Greater Washington County Food Banks and pantries currently help about 5,000 families in the area. The challenges faced by the food bank and its 38 pantries that dot Washington County can be very different, even though they’re affiliated.


Loar said they prefer monetary donations because their “buying power” enables them to purchase large quantities of food that can be stretched further. However, Ruth Ann Lowery, the coordinator for Peters Township Food Pantry, said they depleted all of their available stock during last month’s distribution at Peace Lutheran Church and need more food donations from the community.


“We usually have extra food that we put away, but by the time we were done (Feb. 21), there was nothing left,” Lowery said. “It was bare-bones empty.”


That pantry has drop-off locations at Peters Township Public Library and McMurray Dairy Bar & Market, which replenish the supplies every month. They are hoping for a big turnout for the annual “Scouting for Food” drive that begins in April and will bolster their stock for months. Monetary donations help them buy gift cards to grocery stores for some of the 60 families they help.


“We always depend on the donations in the community to help bolster that,” Lowery said.


The cupboards aren’t quite as bare at the Centerville Food Pantry, according to coordinator Betty Havrilesko. She said truckloads of food donations from the new Walmart in West Brownsville have helped them manage during sparse seasons.


“We’re doing OK,” Havrilesko said. “The weather gave us the biggest problem.”


Both Centerville and Peters Township had to delay their normal pantry distribution dates because of the snowstorm on Valentine’s Day weekend.


The help from local businesses doesn’t mean they’re not affected during this time of year. Havrilesko has noticed a drop in donations to the main food bank that helps supply her pantry and many others.


“A lot of people just aren’t donating, so I see a lot of half-full barrels (of food) there,” she said.


A list of the area’s food pantries and ways to donate can be found on the Greater Washington County Food Bank’s website at www.gwcfb.org.


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