Your gift to Pittsburgh Mercy during The Pittsburgh Foundation’s #OneDay Critical Needs Alert on Wednesday, August 19 will provide life determining services for Pittsburgh’s most vulnerable populations. Your gift will leverage additional funds from the Pittsburgh Foundation. Preschedule today or make a donation on August 19 at www.pittsburghgives.org/Pittsburghmercy.
COVID-19 shed a light on the issue of food insecurity in our community and sent Pittsburgh Mercy colleagues into action to provide for those in need.
Between April and June, our community-based teams, in partnership with the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank (GPCFB), delivered nearly 3,000 pre-packaged boxes of food to individuals in our residential programs, and families and individuals we serve who were in need throughout Allegheny County. And at our Pittsburgh Mercy Family Health Center, the food pantry that normally served only patients with scheduled visits opened to anyone in need of food who walked through the door.
Our Community Treatment Teams, Service Coordination, PAServes – Greater Pittsburgh, Drug Court Program, Pittsburgh Mercy’s Operation Safety Net, and Integrated Dual Disorders Treatment colleagues handled the deliveries to the community. AdHawk Solutions, our partner, delivered boxes to three of our residential sites for persons served who had previously accessed the food bank. The food boxes contained food staples: pasta, can goods, powdered milk, peanut butter, etc. Each box weighed 18 pounds.
“We paid for the first 1,000 boxes from the GPCFB, but the other shipments were free,” says Mission Director Bill Connolly, who coordinated the effort.
Our Intervention Services colleagues constructed “ready-to-eat” boxes for delivery to persons served by Pittsburgh Mercy’s Operation Safety Net. They also packaged boxes at the Light of Life Donation Center for distribution to families in the community.
When Brentwood VFW members set up their own food bank for veterans in need, Pittsburgh Mercy’s Lynnwood Barron, Forensic support specialist, helped to deliver the food to the homebound veterans during the COVID-19 shutdown. Money for the food was donated by the members of the VFW and the effort was coordinated by PAServes, which is administered by Pittsburgh Mercy.
”I know it is greatly appreciated by the veterans he was supporting,” says Whitney Miles, Intervention specialist. “Food as we know is a basic need. Without food it is impossible to function and continue in a direction where we can continue to take care of ourselves.”
“This is the only entity that I am aware of in the Pittsburgh veteran space that did this type of service as well,” adds Matt Gryskewicz, PAServes and Intervention Program administrator. “The efforts, innovation, and collaboration between the PAServes team and the aftercare team undoubtedly led the charge in the veteran space with food support services.”
Persons served were very appreciative of Pittsburgh Mercy colleagues coming out and dropping off these boxes.
“Having a quick chat from a distance with some was good as one person said he felt like he hadn’t had any social interaction in forever,” says Doug Murry, case manager for Enhanced Case Management, Pittsburgh Mercy’s Operation Safety Net. “So, doing these drop offs and, if they are at the door, just having a little conversation with them, asking how they are, and providing information on COVID-19 to them has possibly helped them more than just a box of food.”
Pittsburgh Mercy Family Health Center (PMFHC) had its own food pantry pre-pandemic, thanks to a $22,190 grant from McAuley Ministries, Pittsburgh Mercy’s grant-making foundation, to serve its vulnerable population by providing food and other resources.
But its services expanded when a need was identified to serve vulnerable individuals during the pandemic shutdown.
“The food pantry has been a huge success throughout the COVID-19 crisis,” says Jessica Ginder, PMFHC Behavioral Health Care manager. “We were able to utilize the grant funding to be able to provide food/a food bag to anyone who presented at PMFHC with a need. Pre-COVID, the pantry was primarily used for patients with a scheduled appointment, so being able to open up our availability to serve anyone who walked through our door was very rewarding.”
A woman served by PMFHC was struggling due to the circumstances of COVID-19 and not working. Due to having underlying conditions, she was also having a hard time grocery shopping. She became very emotional when talking about struggling to put food on the table and never having this challenge before. She spoke about never expecting for a doctor’s office to be able to provide food, and that it was a saving grace.
Jessica, who, as food pantry lead, orders and stocks the shelves, created food bags with a few high protein options, canned vegetables and fruit, grains or potatoes, and some snack items. Typically, each person served received at least three days’ worth of food.
“We still have grant money dedicated to the food pantry, and are actually hoping to expand the project by adding a refrigerator/ freezer to be able to provide fresh produce and meats to patients,” Jessica says.
Zandy Dudiak is communications coordinator for Pittsburgh Mercy.