Sources of Food
All the food distributed by the Food Bank, more than 18 million pounds last year, must first be collected. Food comes to the Food Bank through several channels:
- Feeding America: This national umbrella organization for food banks acquires food from national manufacturers and donors and makes it available to network members like the Food Bank. Food may be free, but transportation costs add up.
- Regional and Local Food Donors: Regional and local manufacturers, wholesalers, retailers, farmers, and other food-related companies are all solicited for food and grocery donations to the Food Bank. Thanks to good samaritan laws and new tax laws, donors are both protected from liability, and offered a tax incentive. If you would like to donate food, please contact the Food Resource Assistant at 412-460-3663, ext 303.
- Government Food and Funds: The Food Bank works in a public-private partnership with the government, receiving commodities (food) and funds from federal, state, county and city levels of government. For more information about government funded programs that help the Food Bank and the people we serve, visit our Food & Nutrition Assistance Programs Page
- Community Table Program: Local food service companies provide prepared meals to our onsite feeding agencies at their convenience, weekly, monthly, whatever fits their budget and schedule. Donors can "adopt" a soup kitchen, afterschool program, or shelter right in their own community. All food safety rules apply as well as the Good Samaritan Act. We are currently providing 2,500 to 3,000 meals a month to our agencies through this program. Donors receive various sponsor packages to acknowledege their generosity and so they can be recognized by their customers, employees and community while providing this wonderful, much needed service. For more information, please contact the Food Resource Solicitor at 412-460-3663 ext. 401.
- Food Drives: Food Drives are vital to the Food Bank's ability to gather enough food. Please consider organizing a food drive for the Food Bank. Collect food at a regular meeting of your civic organization, congregation, youth group, small business, professional society, or school. Download a Food Drive Packet from our online store - Everything you need to hold you own food drive. If you need more assistance, contact the Food Drive Coordinator at 412-460-3663, ext 209. OR, have a Virtual Food Drive! No cans to haul - no bags, no boxes. We'll set up a customized web page and you can click and drag your groceries to the checkout from the comfort of your home or desk! Contact the Virtual Food Drive Coordinator at 412-460-3663, ext 410.
- 5. Urban Agriculture: The Food Bank's Urban Agriculture programs increase access to fresh produce for low income families, while strengthening the local food system by supporting local farmers and increasing urban-rural connections. To donate fresh produce, or participate, contact the Gleaning Coordinator at 412-460-3663, ext 214.
Gleaning takes place from June through November. Volunteers harvest excess produce from farmers' fields. Individuals and groups get to experience a working farm, benefit from the exercise and fresh air, and help provide nutritious produce to hungry people! Gleans take place in three-hour shifts and are scheduled for weekdays, Saturdays, and some weekday evenings. Volunteers provide their own transportation to the farm; the Food Bank provides snacks, water, all supplies, and training and supervision.
The Farm Stand Project has been providing low-income neighborhoods with fresh, affordable produce for more than thirteen years. In neighborhoods with limited or no access to fresh food markets, Farm Stands are sponsored by local organizations or businesses, and staffed by volunteers from the neighborhood. Farm Stands accept WIC and Senior Farmer's Market Nutrition checks, Food Stamps and cash; all are open to the public.
There are other benefits as well, including purchasing as much locally grown produce as possible, supporting local farmers and benefiting the regional economy. Moreover, the Farm Stand Project promotes healthy eating habits, with nutrition information, healthy recipes, and even cooking demonstrations offered by Food Bank nutrition staff.
The Farmers' Market Connection Program pairs our member agencies with area farmers' markets. At the end of the market day, vendors can donate their unsold produce directly to a charitable agency that feeds the hungry. Balcony Garden Project: the Food Bank partners with UPMC Living at Home Program to coordinate the balcony garden project at Roselle Court Senior High Rise. Residents plant container gardens of vegetables, herbs and flowers, and celebrate their efforts with a harvest party at the end of each season.
Plant A Row: If you are overwhelmed by tomatoes, zucchini or other vegetables in your home garden, the Food Bank can match you with a local emergency food provider, so that your excess produce won't go to waste!
As part of Plant a Row, the Food Bank partners with Phipps Conservatory, Grow Pittsburgh and Pittsburgh Post-Gazette garden columnist Doug Oster on the annual Tomato and Garlic Festival in August. Festival-goers receive free admission when they bring a bag of fresh produce for the hungry. Check the calendar page for dates.
- Purchased food: It is generally difficult to get certain items donated, like eggs or meat, or to rely solely on donated product to maintain a steady inventory for ordering purposes. So the Food Bank initiated a wholesale buying program. This is advantageous for many reasons. We can purchase the most nutritious and most needed items, stretch every dollar donated fivefold, and make low-cost food available to our agencies.