Food pantry sees increase in need for assistance

The number of families seeking food assistance at the Cranberry Food Pantry is going up and that has volunteers hustling to meet the need.

“The need is always great at this time of year because of the holidays,” said Janet Shaw, founder and pantry overseer. “Aside from that, the numbers were down but they are coming back up.”

The 12-year-old, nonprofit food bank, located on the ground floor of the former Cranberry High School on South Main Street, is open free to residents of the Cranberry Area School District. Founded by members of Cranberry area churches, it is staffed by volunteers.

“There is no proof of income needed,” said Shaw. “The only requirement is that you have to live in the (school) district.”

Dates are changed

The pantry is open on two Mondays a month. For December, the schedule will shift from the second and fourth Mondays to the first and third Mondays with the hours set at 12:30 to 5 p.m. The food pickup is done on a drive-through basis.

“There is no advance registration required, but we do ask people to be patient with our drive-through system,” said Shaw.

In late spring, the coronavirus pandemic prompted a rush of families and individuals asking for food supplies from the pantry. While it subsided somewhat during summer, the requests for assistance are starting back up, said Shaw.

“We were at about 115 families, then 140 families and this last time we had 162 families,” said Shaw. “Of that, we usually have about six to eight new families a month. At this point, I don’t know if that part will go up.”

The Cranberry Food Pantry is stocked by Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest Pennsylvania, but private contributors also add a hefty amount to the collection of food and other items. Monetary donations, too, allow volunteers to purchase more food and hygiene goods.

Community steps up

“People have been so amazing. So financially, we are good,” said Shaw. “It’s amazing how people have stepped up, including people who don’t even live here anymore but want to support us.

“And the contributions have increased in the last few months. Having the money to do this makes it easier, but we can always use financial support.”

One large donor source is the Cranberry Area School District, where students and staff have regularly rallied to help the pantry.

“They provide money and more. It’s fantastic how they support us,” said Shaw.

To fill gaps in what pantry-goers may need, Shaw and other volunteers regularly scour shelves of area markets in search of what are described as “extra essentials,” ranging from condiments and baking items to detergents, soaps, shampoos and feminine products.

People or organizations wishing to make those contributions may take the items to the pantry site during lunch hours on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays when volunteers are on hand.

The cadre of volunteers could use some help, too.

“The pantry is run by committed volunteers who enjoy the fellowship and fun of getting together,” said Shaw. “Some of our volunteers, though, are not coming because of COVID; so we can always use more volunteers.”

While the Cranberry Food Pantry has been able to respond well to community needs over the years, there could be challenges in the next few months, noted Shaw.

“We have had our pantry set up for so long that we have met the challenges. And, we look ahead to make sure we don’t run out of food,” said Shaw. “But, it could become difficult. We are faith-based and believe that God always gives us what we need. We’ll be able to do this.”