By Grant Oliphant
President and CEO
The Pittsburgh Foundation
The latest statistics around huge increases in local demand for food assistance make for unsettling and disturbing reading. Behind the data are individuals and families, children and the elderly who do not have enough to eat.
They are our neighbors, a great many of them with jobs that do not pay enough to keep hunger from their doors. For others the crushing impact of the economic recession lingers on: lost jobs, mortgage foreclosures, unpaid utilities and hopes of better things becoming fainter with each passing year.
It is unacceptable for our nation, for all that we have as one of the wealthiest and most influential in the world, that we should harbor the hardship and indignity of hunger on the scale that it has become. It is especially distressing that such a growing and critical need for food assistance in our community should emerge during this, the holiday season.
That is why The Pittsburgh Foundation today launches an urgent community-wide appeal to help food banks in Allegheny and Westmoreland counties meet this unprecedented upsurge in demand. The Foundation has created a match pool, initially of $100,000, and all contributions will be matched dollar-for-dollar. We have set aside additional funds to boost the match pool, if required.
We have taken the unusual step of opening up the Foundation’s on-line charitable giving platform, PittsburghGives – normally activated to host the community’s annual Day of Giving and similar events – to receive credit card donations. The Foundation will pay the credit card transaction fees of approximately three percent to ensure that all donations go towards putting food on the tables of those who need our support.
To place this crisis in perspective, one in three people in the City of Pittsburgh are now living below the poverty line, according to the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank. Demand for assistance increased in some local neighborhoods by as much as 40 percent last month compared with November 2012, and the number of new households seeking assistance is averaging 3,200 per month.
The Westmoreland County Food Bank reports that one in six people in its service area now qualifies for food assistance. Overall demand there is up 13 percent, and the organization may need to reduce the size of food boxes distributed to individuals and families in order to stretch resources farther.
Those who suffer are our community’s most vulnerable – children, senior citizens, veterans and people with disabilities, and as Kris Douglas, Chief Executive with the Westmoreland County Food Bank, points out: “There is a misconception about what the face of hunger really looks like in our community. Most of the people we serve are the working poor. Even though they have jobs, they do not earn enough to feed themselves and their families.”
I urge everybody in our community who can afford to help to contribute to our appeal in addressing this most essential of human needs.
Starting today and until midnight on December 31, we will be accepting credit card donations (minimum of $25 per donation) via the Foundation’s on-line site at www.pittsburghgives.org. Donors may contribute either directly to the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank or Westmoreland County Food Bank or to any of the 15 local neighborhood food pantries and affiliate organizations listed on the site.
We must strive to do what our community does so well in joining together to help meet this critical need. Thank you for doing what you can.