Even with the recent volatility of the stock market, the general perception is the U.S. economy is doing quite well these days.
For many Americans, though, perception is not reality.
“Our pantry service numbers continue at a very high rate, 1,800 to 2,000 people on a monthly basis,” Jim Guffey said. “Quite honestly, those are immediate post-Great Recession kinds of numbers.”
Guffey is executive director of South Hills Interfaith Movement, which has a food pantry at its main location in Bethel Park, along with two others in Whitehall and Baldwin boroughs.
“This is the neighbor down the street who might be a senior citizen,” he said about those who use the pantries. “This is the family where husband and wife are absolutely gainfully employed, but they’re in lower-wage jobs.”
To help keep the shelves stocked, SHIM is in the midst of its annual March to Sack Hunger, Pack Hope.
“This year, we’ve consolidated it into a one-month time frame. And that’s really to express the urgency of action,” Guffey said.
The drive has a goal of raising $50,000, he said.
“Certainly, the financial contributions are invaluable,” Guffey said. “It allows us to leverage dollars and have greater purchasing power.”
Purchases are made in bulk of dried lentils and beans, rice, canned goods and other foods that can serve as bases for healthy meals. In fact, SHIM is conducting a Sack Hunger Pantry Challenge March 21-22, with the goal of creating meals using those types of ingredients in an economically conservative manner.
Guffey cited the $10-plus someone may spend for lunch at a restaurant.
“How could you stretch that by going to a grocery store and finding comparable things that you would find in our pantries?” he said.
Those who are up for the challenge are encouraged to post information about their experiences in social media, accompanied by #SackHungerPantryChallenge.
Also planned by SHIM is a Sack Hunger Street Team weekend March 28-29, during which supporters will go door-to-door requesting donations.
“We live in a world that is more and more isolated from neighbors being neighbors. So it’s the idea of going out into your own neighborhood and saying, ‘We’re doing a food drive. Just leave something on the doorstep, and we’ll come back later in the week,’” Guffey said. “And then you get to know your neighbors.”
While you’re at it, he said, you may want to consider explaining the importance of this year’s taking of the latest U.S. Census.
“What may happen if we don’t get to count every neighbor in the South Hills is the potential for a reduction in funding for programs,” he said. “You get one shot every 10 years to do this. It’s not like if we mess this up, we can come back next year and fix it.”
For more information, visit shimcares.org/sack-hunger.