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Local Volunteer Groups Stepping Up To Help End Child Food Insecurity

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) - With each job lost during the coronavirus pandemic, someone is left struggling to make ends meet and feed their families.

This also means many children in the region may not be getting the food and nutrition they need.

Growing children need the basics to be healthy, but if it's a choice between keeping a roof over their head or missing a meal, often food needs suffer.

The groups that usually help solve food insecurity for children are finding themselves swamped with demand during the pandemic and it's the kind of situation most of us don't realize may be an issue in the house next door.

Lauren Babich is the Child Nutrition Outreach Manager at the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank.

"Even in the best of times, we have one in six kids in our area that struggle with food insecurity," Babich said.

During the pandemic, Babich says, it has gotten worse.

"We've seen major increases in demand, we have sites across our regions, we serve 11 counties across southwestern Pennsylvania, we've seen sites increase tenfold as far as the number of kids they are serving."

Even with the increase in demand, the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank is still committed to making sure children in need are being served.

"We've pulled together a map, we have a team of outreach coordinators that work across our county, we've worked with Westmoreland County as well to try to get more of that information available for folks, so if they go to our website, they can pull up more detailed information about meal types and servicing times that might be available at those sites," Babich explained.

All of that information can be found on the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank's website.

WATCH: North Hills Cares Helping Solve Food Insecurity

In a lot of cases, school meals are the best type of nourishment some kids get and with school out early and through the summer, another group stepping up to fill the void is North Hills Cares.

Three times per week, they gather in the morning at North Hills United Presbyterian Church in West View to put meals together. Monday, Wednesday, and Friday they're hard at work, getting bags of food, two days worth of it, ready for families to stop by and pick them up.

"Last year, we fed on a daily basis 15-25, this year, we're grabbing and going," explained Patty Parkhil. "That means they are getting them outdoors, they are not coming in, social distancing and in masks and such, and we're feeding upwards of 170, 180, up to 200 a day."

It's the type of community support that keeps the volunteers going.

"People are out of work, they have lost their jobs, or their hours have been cut back and I think there's just a need for more community support right now that there would not have been last summer," said Beth McIntyre.

Along with being able to give back, it's knowing that they've helped a fellow human being that makes this hard work so worth it.

"They're just happy and the parents are happy too, it's a feel-good and I know we're meeting the need and I hope our numbers go down and down, which means we're getting back to normal and people are getting back to their lives," Parkhil said.

Funding for the food comes from both the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Education and North Hills Cares makes up the menu and buys food at the big box stores.

They say they'll try to accommodate all the families in need but at times there is a waitlist.

One-in-six kids in this region will wake up this morning with no guarantee they will get enough to eat today.

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