Jul 28, 2014
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West Hills Food Volunteers: Summer Demand at Unusual High

Food pantry volunteers said an unusually high number of people are seeking food at the pantry.

The doors open at 10 a.m., but people begin trickling into the parking lot as early at 6.

With increasing demand for the groceries provided by the West Hills Food Pantry, the earlier you get there, the better. 

Volunteer Ron Goss fills metal-grocery carts in the kitchen as clients pick up their food nearby. 

"When I started volunteering here 18 years ago, you'd have just 34 people show up," said Gross, a retired Moon resident. "You come here now on a Tuesday and we'll have 170 people in and out of here." 

Volunteers at the pantry, which is housed on the grounds of the on Carnot Road and operated entirely by volunteers, said they've seen an unusual uptick in the number of people seeking its services this summer. 

"They're holiday numbers," said volunteer Rose Kerrfoot, in between filling grocery bags with canned goods. "I don't even want to see what it will be like around Thanksgiving." 

The pantry's kitchen bustles with nearly 30 volunteers on a given Tuesday. From the hours of 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., clients from the Moon, Crescent, Coraopolis and Neville Island communities stream in and out of the building, collecting bags of groceries selected especially for them from the pantry's shelves. 

On a typical week, the pantry serves roughly 140 people, said pantry director Sandy Hershberger. In recent months, however, its clientele has steadily climbed closer to 200 per week, and remained at that level for much of the summer.

Volunteers said they often find themselves stretching the pantry's monthly 15,000-pound food deliveries to meet the community's need. 

Pantry staff say the stagnated economy is most likely to blame -- Hershberger said the food pantry often serves as a barometer for the community's economic health. 

The need for donations, both food and monetary, is great, she said. 

"This year we're seeing exceptionally high numbers," said Hershberger, who has been at the helm of the pantry's operations for nearly 22 years. "They're higher than they were last year." 

Pantry volunteer Rob Hamsher said while the pantry stretches its food donations to serve all of its clientele, monetary donations can sometimes leave the most impact. 

"Donations are great," Hamsher said. "But money donations are really the best. We can take that and purchase food at a discount. We can get ground meat for $.99. It goes farther that way." 

Hershberger said the pantry is committed to serving its clientele's increasing numbers. 

"There's this perception that Moon might be sort of an affluent community or that this isn't needed here," Hershberger said. "But we're seeing all kinds of people come in here. Younger people, older people, single people, married. There's a need here."  

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