Pittsburgh, Pa. − December 9, 2021 − Senator Lindsey M. Williams (D-Allegheny) joined representatives from Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank, North Hills Community Outreach, and other elected officials today for an announcement that food banks across Pennsylvania will receive $11.4 million through the COVID-19 Cold Storage Infrastructure Program (CSIP). This program will be funded by American Rescue Plan dollars and will provide essential grant money to food banks to purchase, expand, or upgrade cold storage facilities to ensure that they can delivery fresh food to struggling families. This program will touch all 67 counties and is key to addressing food insecurity issues that have been exacerbated by the pandemic. Programs such as CSIP are a major priority of Senate Democrats, who announced the funding in partnership with the Administration today.
“I’m thrilled to see ARP funds being used to fund cold storage infrastructure for our food banks,” said Senator Williams. “Getting these dollars into the communities that have been hardest hit by not just the pandemic, but also by factors such as the loss of reliable public transportation, the lack of healthy options available in neighborhoods, and economic downturns that began long before 2020, has been an enormous priority for me and the entire Senate Democratic Caucus. We need to spend this money in ways that give us the best return on our investment, and the Cold Storage Infrastructure Program is a perfect example of how to do this.”
Senator Williams was joined in this announcement by representatives from Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank (GPCFB), which provided over 45 million meals through direct efforts and local partners in fiscal year 2021, an increase of nearly 12.5% over 2020. GPCFB serves families and individuals across Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Butler, Cambria, Fayette, Greene, Indiana, Lawrence, Somerset, Washington counties. “We are grateful to the Governor and the General Assembly for providing funds for cold storage infrastructure at this critical time,” said Lisa Scales, President & CEO of Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank. “Last year, 30% of all the food we distributed to our network partners was fresh produce. Our goal is that it will be 50% by 2025. The refrigeration equipment, trucks, and vans that we purchase with these funds will help us meet this goal. And for our neighbors who struggle with food insecurity and cannot always afford fresh fruits and vegetables, meat, eggs, and milk, this means that these nutritious items will be available more often and in larger quantities throughout our network in southwestern Pennsylvania.”
This announcement was made at the Allison Park office of North Hills Community Outreach (NHCO), a community- and faith-based organization that provides crisis and hardship services to families and individuals throughout Northern Allegheny County. Over the past fiscal year, NHCO provided food and emergency services to over 2000 families, including over 4,500 pounds of organic produce harvested from their Rosalinda Sauro Sirianni Community Garden. “North Hills Community Outreach is able to serve people across 50 communities in no small part through wonderful community partnerships. Continuing to work with Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank and our allies in the state government, we can positively influence the lives of even more of our neighbors,” explained Tom Baker Executive Director of the North Hills Community Outreach. “This support for expanding our cold storage capabilities will only help get more nutritious, high value food to the people we serve. NHCO looks forward to expanding our joint efforts with the state.”
Senator Williams was joined in this announcement by Representative Emily Kinkead (D-21), Representative Sara Innamorato (D-20), and Senator Jay Costa (D-Allegheny), as well as Mark Critz, the Western Regional Director for the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture.
Representative Innamorato said, “When COVID-19 struck, our social safety net was not strong enough to catch everyone. Nonprofits such as Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank and North Hills Community Outreach stepped up to help everyone who slipped through the cracks. They heroically showed up for our neighbors during a global pandemic. Now it’s the state’s turn to step up and bolster their efforts. This grant funding is vital to serving our neighbors in need while we reknit our social safety net.”
Representative Kinkead noted, “Over the course of this pandemic, we saw lines of cars for miles of people waiting for food assistance from our local food banks. It was a stark visual reminder of just how many of our neighbors live with food insecurity or are just one missed paycheck away from it. I am proud to see the Governor recognizing the essential role food banks played in getting us through this pandemic and that he has made a commitment to ensure that they receive the necessary investments to continue and to expand their vital work in our communities.”
The CSIP will fund infrastructure upgrades at 18 food banks covering all 67 counties. Grant awards will be made directly to the food banks in the amount requested after an informal survey of needs.