JENKINS TOWNSHIP, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — Putting food on the table has become a growing challenge for many families throughout northeastern and central Pennsylvania.
One of the area’s leading regional food banks is feeling the effects of that demand.
Warehouse workers are busy stocking shelves at Commission on Economic Opportunity’s (CEO) Weinberg Northeast Regional Food Bank. They are usually even busier than this.
“Typically these are filled with product. Three high, typically,” said Food Bank Director Mary Ellen Spellman.
“I see where they can hold up to 3,000 pounds. Right now, zero pounds,” said Hiller.
“Right. That’s right,” said Spellman.
Spellman points out the troubling effects of supply chain issues.
But the problem goes even deeper than that for this non-profit which provides food to some 250 recipient groups throughout Luzerne, Lackawanna, Wyoming, and Susquehanna Counties.
“We have more and more families reaching out to our member agencies for food which means that we have to provide a higher amount of food,” Spellman told Eyewitness.
The demand is just one factor adding up to quite a dilemma.
“The cost of food has increased, the number of people we’re serving has increased, but the donations have decreased,” said the acting Executive Director of CEO in Weinberg Northeast Regional Food Bank, Jennifer Warabak.
It’s more than just a downturn in public donations hurting this regional food bank.
COVID funding dried up in 2022 leaving CEO Weinberg looking for multiple lifelines.
More than a $500,000 of food was purchased since last July helping recipients like New Story School in Throop.
The school picks up food donations weekly for its 55 students.
“Without this help here, John, what would this mean for New Story School?” Hiller asked.
“We probably wouldn’t be able to do this program because of the expense of being able to buy the supplies,” said John Patterson of New Story Schools.
The people who help run this regional food bank want you to realize the food helping your neighbors in need comes from here and will continue, as long as it gets a helping hand.
“I fear that we’re going to continue to see this, you know, slow but very steady increase in need and demand,” said Director of Nutrition Programs and Resource Development, Gretchen Hunt.
Weinberg Northeast Regional Food Bank also needs to expand its 50,000-square-foot food bank by 15,000 more square feet.