WCFB provides food-assistance each month to approximately 15,000 low-income, Westmoreland County residents, including 4,000 children and over 2,000 seniors. WCFB currently has 80 member agencies in our network of feeding sites; of those, 47 are food pantries in which low-income consumers access food on a monthly basis.
In 2008/2009, WCFB committed to expand our services in order to align with Feeding America’s strategic plan and to achieve our Vision to end hunger and food-insecurity in Westmoreland County; to date, our expansion efforts added 250 new households to our roles in the Jeannette area.
In 2010 WCFB received many accolades from various organizations. We are very proud to have been recipients of these prestigious awards:
• WCFB Expansion and Outreach Pilot Project were chosen by Feeding America as the 2010 Agency Capacity Program of the Year; national recognition for this innovative program was the culmination of the first year of the Pilot Project. Over fifty Food Banks across the United States were vying for this prestigious award.
• WCFB was named the 2010 Community Partner of the year by the Westmoreland County Community Support Program.
• The Westmoreland Chamber of Commerce named WCFB as the 2010 Non-Profit of the Year.
• For the fourth year in a row, WCFB received the award for the “best on time receipts” from Feeding America.
• Via L.W. Robbins Associates, WCFB received the 2010 Silver Award for direct mail fundraising in the non-profit category from the New England Direct Marketing Association.
With regard to food and funding sources, WCFB receives 50% of the food distributed through the federal and state government, and 50% from local donations, food drives and Feeding America. Moreover, WCFB funding sources include federal, state and local grants, the United Way, and 50% of our funding is received through donations from the citizens of Westmoreland County. Administrative and fundraising costs account for 5% of WCFB’s operating budget.
In 2009, WCFB distributed nearly 6.4 million pounds of food. Ironically, while we continue to receive increases in food and monetary donations, we’re simultaneously experiencing increases in the number of people seeking assistance; this year, WCFB serves 1,000 more families than in 2009. We believe that there are a number of factors contributing to this increase in need:
First of all, between March 2009 and March 2010, the unemployment rate in Westmoreland County rose from 7.9% to 9.3% according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This is not surprising given the sluggish economy and job losses due to plant closings and business failures, in general. In addition, we know anecdotally from food pantry feedback, that many who are still employed are actually under-employed; higher paying, skilled jobs lost have been replaced with unskilled jobs paying lower wages.
Considering the increase in demand for services, WCFB and our partner food pantries must increase capacity in order to meet those growing needs; additional vehicles, other equipment and staff must be acquired to attain the necessary capacity to continue our work, our expansion efforts and to achieve our Vision and Mission. WCFB has a strong history of community support and fundraising success with continued increase in broad based contributions to support future activities in the Expansion and Outreach Pilot Project beyond the grant period.
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The Westmoreland County Food Bank’s mission is to enable all Westmoreland County residents who are hungry or at risk of hunger to have ready access to food.
To end hunger in Westmoreland County
In 1969, the first Food Bank was established by St. Mary’s Church in Phoenix, Arizona. Volunteers collected surplus food donations for a soup kitchen and decided to operate a warehouse to share donations with other charities. By the mid-seventies, St. Mary’s concept was replicated around the country. In 1978, the Hunger Action Coalition and the University of Pittsburgh produced a study that documented hunger as a serious problem in the Pittsburgh area. In June 1980, the Pittsburgh Community Food Bank was opened with sponsorship from the Hunger Action Coalition.
The Westmoreland County Food Bank was founded in March of 1982 by Michael J. Spencer and he was the Executive Director of the Food Bank until is death in 1997. During the first year of operation, WCFB
distributed 2,000 pounds of food to five pantries. For eighteen years, WCFB operated as a subsidiary distribution organization of the Pittsburgh Food Bank. In 2000, after a stringent certification process, WCFB received affiliate status from Feeding America (formerly, America’s Second Harvest, the Nation’s Food Bank Network).
Programs & Activities:
The core of Westmoreland County Food Bank’s work is to acquire food to distribute to needy people throughout Westmoreland County through a network of member agencies comprised primarily of volunteer-run, faith-based organizations. While a number of our member agencies are soup kitchens, shelters and other on-site feeding programs, the majority of WCFB member agencies are food pantries that make up our Food Pantry Distribution Program.
Each month, WCFB delivers food to our pantries in refrigerated trucks. The pantries then distribute the food to their income-eligible constituents. In order to meet income eligibility requirements, family income must be at or below 150% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines.
In turn, WCFB regularly monitors pantries to insure that IRS regulations and food safety/food handling regulations are met. Conversely, WCFB is regularly monitored by the State Department of Agriculture and by Feeding America; WCFB is a certified affiliate of Feeding America.
In addition to the Food Pantry Distribution Program, WCFB also operates the following feeding programs:
Since 1982, Westmoreland County Food Bank has sponsored the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), which is a continuation of the National School Lunch Program. For eight weeks each summer, free breakfasts and lunches are served to disadvantaged children 18 years of age and under.
The Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP) (also known as the Senior Food Box Program) is federally funded through the State Department of Agriculture and provides supplemental, monthly food boxes for seniors and WIC Program (Women, Infants and Children) graduates. Each month, approximately 1,500 income eligible seniors, age 60 and over, and WIC graduates receive these nutritionally balanced, supplemental food boxes.
The Operation Fresh Express (OFE) Program holds supplemental food distributions at various locations around the county to distribute primarily perishable food like dairy product and produce; one of the greatest challenges faced by Food Bank’s is to distribute perishable food to consumers before the expiration or code date expires.
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During the past several years, new programs have been developed to streamline services and to insure that food is distributed in an efficient, cost-effective manner; as well as other efforts to improve our professionalism, and standards of operation, and to develop best practices at the Westmoreland County Food Bank. Our key accomplishments are listed below:
• As mentioned previously, WCFB developed and implemented: Commodity Supplemental Food Program; Operation Fresh Express; Weekend Back Pack Program.
• The Expansion and Outreach Pilot Project: In 2007, the WCFB Board of Directors committed toaligning with Feeding America’s strategic plan to end hunger and food-insecurity in the United States.
To that end, WCFB commissioned a county-wide Gap Study using Experian Credit Bureau data that revealed there are 40,000 eligible, Westmoreland County residents who are not receiving services. [Unlike census data-base GAP models, credit bureau data provides the following information about each household: name and address; adults’ gender and age; number and age of children; number of household members; income and education levels; home ownership; and direct response activity; and, credit bureau data is updated annually which provides more current demographic information than census data].
Then, in 2008, in response to the alarming GAP study findings, WCFB decided to launch an Expansion and Outreach Pilot Project in order to locate new consumers and offer food-assistance to the un-served and under-served in the selected Pilot area, Jeannette, Pennsylvaina.
Next, a market study was commissioned prior to the Pilot Project’s launch. Among other things, the study outlined: consumer knowledge and attitudes about WCFB; as well as growth, communication and branding objectives; and key messages and mediums for message delivery to the target population.
Subsequent to completion of the market study, a Pilot Project Action Plan was developed and implemented, and served as a road-map for achieving the targeted outcomes below:
1. Feed More People: located and served 382 additional people in the Pilot area.
2. Increase Food: provided 64,653 pounds of additional food, 90% of it nutritious; new food drives were implemented in the Pilot area, also.
3. Increase Reach and Capacity: GAP Analysis and Disaster Plans were completed; Pilot pantry capacity issues were assessed and addressed; developed a food distribution program at the Jeannette High Rise; established a Pantry Advisory Committee; stream-lined Pilot pantry distributions; marketed to GAP study households; installed client-tracking software.
4. Mobilize the Public: increased fundraising dollars by 20% over the previous year; increased monetary donors by 20% over the previous year; increased advocacy database by 10%; developed marketing materials incorporating the themes, “Ending Hunger Here at Home” and “We’re All in This Together”.
5. Increase and Leverage Government Resources: increased SNAP applications from 18 to 149; increased
Summer Food Service Program meals 100%; lobbied for State Food Purchase Program funding increase.
6. Inspire Confidence and Support of Staff and Pilot Pantries: 80% of staff reported they felt they had a supportive and engaging work environment; 100 % of Pilot pantries [four in the Jeannette area] reported having a supportive and engaging environment in which to work.
To summarize, the planning and implementation of the Expansion and Outreach Pilot Project enabled WCFB to focus on achieving outcomes in order to expand and improve services to the un-served in Westmoreland County; and to develop and institute innovative systems and best practices.
Moreover, the Pilot has allowed us to segment and analyze the target population; map geographic areas to determine need; evaluate where there are too many or too few pantries; and to develop and implement a precise marketing strategy for reaching un-served consumers.
Because of the Pilot project, for the first time in 28 years, we have a face for hunger; we understand who and where our consumers are; we can mail to consumers with the precision that was once reserved for donors only; we can identify barriers to access beyond location [pride, perception, etc.].
Clearly, the implementation of the Expansion and Outreach Pilot Project in 2009/2010 has enabled us to expand services through our existing Food Pantry Distribution Program. It has helped us develop a template for ending hunger and food-insecurity that can be replicated community by community throughout Westmoreland County and the Feeding America Food Bank Network, as well.
Beyond 2010, we have, through our most recent strategic planning process, determined the most areas of need within Westmoreland County and plan to move our expansion and outreach efforts to the Mount Pleasant, New Kensington, and Monessen areas over the next ten year period, ultimately offering services throughout Westmoreland County. In this manner, we’ll achieve our Mission to enable all Westmoreland County residents who are hungry or at risk of hunger to have ready access to food, and support Feeding America’s national, anti-hunger objectives.
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