Even though it was a sunny May morning, part of the South Hills Village parking lot looked a lot like Christmas, at least as far as the volume of vehicles was concerned.

The giving aspect of the holiday season was on full display, as well, when South Hills Interfaith Movement partnered with the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank to hold a mass food distribution at the Bethel Park-Upper St. Clair shopping mall.

In an orderly manner, volunteers presented the occupants of more than 950 vehicles with three prepackaged boxes of food each, as a way to help families through the crisis caused by COVID-19.

“Suburban poverty has been a growing concern in the South Hills for some time, and this pandemic has only made it worse,” Jim Guffey, SHIM executive director, said. “Many people don’t realize that prosperous communities are also facing hardships right now. This is the first time that many of our neighbors are struggling to pay their bills or put food on the table. This crisis doesn’t care what ZIP code you live in. It’s universal.”

The 52-year-old nonprofit operates three food pantries, at the SHIM Center in Bethel Park, Prospect Park in Whitehall and Baldwin United Presbyterian Church in Baldwin Borough. Last year, the pantries provided more than 501,000 pounds of food and personal care items for more than 3,500 South Hills residents.

Since March, when SHIM began offering drive-through pantries in lieu of its shop-through option, the organization has experienced a 28% increase in people seeking help with basic needs such as food and financial assistance. SHIM’s pantries served 745 households and nearly 2,400 individuals in April alone, with nearly half of all visitors using the service for the first time.

To help meet the need, SHIM has leveraged its partnership with Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank.

“As we’ve seen over the past few months, the pandemic has affected people on all levels and of all backgrounds,” Lisa Scales, food bank president and chief executive officer, said. “We continue to be inspired by organizations like SHIM that are guiding their communities through the fear and uncertainty of this crisis.”

For more information about SHIM’s essential services during the pandemic, including its pantries, visit shimcares.org/covid-19-resources. Anyone in need of urgent assistance can contact SHIM’s main office at 412-854-9120 and select the extension for the appropriate staff person. Monetary donations to support SHIM’s work can be made at shimcares.org/give.