The Pittsburgh Foundation

Critical attention for food pantries feeding region

$1 million fundraising goal for Critical Needs Alert giving event                  

PITTSBURGH, April 3, 2018 – With nearly one in seven people in Allegheny County experiencing food insecurity, The Pittsburgh Foundation is organizing a Critical Needs Alert online fundraising event to raise money for 171 Allegheny and Westmoreland County organizations with food pantries as a primary part of their mission. The event also benefits nonprofits that supply them.

The Critical Needs event, under the #FeedPGH banner, is scheduled for Tuesday, May 1, from 8 a.m. to midnight through the Foundation’s donation portal. Every donation will trigger additional funding: the $1 million fundraising effort will be seeded with a $600,000 incentive pool from The Pittsburgh Foundation.

“All sectors of our community must come together to end food insecurity,” said Foundation President and CEO Maxwell King. “Online giving events such as the Critical Needs Alert can never replace government investment, but do present opportunities for The Pittsburgh Foundation to rally support for food pantries that support our neighbors who are struggling to make ends meet.”

This year’s Critical Needs Alert aligns with the Foundation’s 100 Percent Pittsburgh organizing principle, which seeks to ensure that residents who live at or near the federal poverty line – at least one-third of the region’s population – have opportunities to participate in the region’s improved economy.

Food pantries across the nation report increasing demand, particularly in areas where gentrification has caused costs for housing, transportation and other basic needs to rise. Simultaneously, state and federal officials are proposing work requirements for food and cash assistance. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 33 percent of people struggling with food insecurity have one or more full-time jobs.

Smaller pantries, including many of beneficiary organizations in Pittsburgh meant to benefit from this year’s Critical Needs Alert, depend on volunteers and operate on annual budgets of $3,000 to $7,000, according to the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank. Dario Donatelli, president of Swissvale Cares, which serves 200 families a month through its Swissvale Food Pantry, raised $6,400 – the equivalent of six months of the food pantry’s operating budget – in 16 hours in last year’s Critical Needs Alert.

“The Critical Needs Alert provides us with money, but also visibility for Swissvale Cares, which is still a relatively new organization,” said Donatelli, who hopes to raise $12,000 on May 1. “Just knowing that this event is happening gave us a leap of faith to move to a newer, larger location. We are confident that the money will come.”

Food insecurity means there is not enough food for every person in a household to lead a healthy, balanced lifestyle. According to the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank, a few groups are especially vulnerable to food insecurity:

  • Seniors: More than 300,000 senior citizens in Pennsylvania face food insecurity. Hunger ages senior citizens by as much as 14 years, causing a 64-year-old to face activity limitations normally experienced at age 78.
  • Children: One in six children in Allegheny County face food insecurity. Hungry children are three times as likely as food-secure peers to face poor health, twice as likely to suffer from ADHD and twice as likely to repeat a grade.
  • Working Pennsylvanians: 1.85 million Pennsylvanians are food-insecure and more than 314,000 Pennsylvanians with full-time jobs have incomes below the poverty line and face food insecurity.
  • Veterans: More than 59,000 Pennsylvania veterans receive food assistance for themselves and their families. Nationally, 70 percent of veterans are married and 31 percent have children.
  • People with disabilities: Nearly one-third of households headed by people with disabilities experience very low food security.
  • College students: One in 10 U.S. adults who seek food assistance are college students. One in five college students report skipping or cutting back on meals because they cannot afford food.

The $600,000 leverage pool is made up of $350,000 in grants from the Foundation and $250,000 from its donors. Four previous Critical Needs Alerts raised a total of $3.8 million, including incentive dollars, and each targeted a specific area of need - food insecurity in 2013 and housing insecurity in 2014 and 2015. Last year’s online giving event, which raised $1.3 million, benefited 97 nonprofits that provide direct service in five areas to strengthen the safety net of essential human services: child care, food and nutrition, housing, physical and mental health and transportation.

The Foundation is inviting nonprofits with food pantries as part of their primary mission and nonprofits that supply them to participate. The response deadline is April 24.

The catalyst for 16 hours of giving: This year’s #FeedPGH campaign will prorate payouts from the incentive pool based on the total raised by each organization. The goal is to encourage public giving over the full 16 hours of the Critical Needs Alert. Donations of $25 to $1,000 per donor will be eligible for incentive dollars.

“Boosting each donation on a prorated basis through the incentive fund resulted in a successful campaign last year,” said Kelly Uranker, director of the Foundation’s Center for Philanthropy. “Instead of seeing a drop in giving when match funds were depleted, we saw contributions coming in steadily, all the way to the midnight ending. Prorating the incentive funding encourages people to keep giving, leading to more donations and more opportunities for food pantries and the organizations that supply them to increase their individual donor bases.”

Other online giving events: Last year, the Foundation partnered with Pittsburgh Magazine to create Give Big Pittsburgh, which raised $1.4 million for local nonprofits on the national Giving Tuesday, Nov. 28. This year’s Giving Tuesday is set for Nov. 27.

Technology partner CiviCore: The Pittsburgh Foundation will utilize the online giving platform CiviCore for the #FeedPGH Critical Needs Alert. CiviCore’s platform powered the successful #SafetyNetPGH event. CiviCore has successfully partnered with community foundations and nonprofits on giving events that have collectively raised more than $300 million.

The company engages in multi-level contingency and communication planning before every giving event.

Critical Needs Alert giving events align with the Foundation’s mission of improving the quality of life in the Pittsburgh region by evaluating and addressing community issues, promoting responsible philanthropy and connecting donors to the critical needs of the community.

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