Amidst Pandemic, Food Bank Sees Increased Need for Thanksgiving Help
Each year, the State College Food Bank works toward the goal that no one in Centre County goes without a Thanksgiving dinner. This year, with families struggling because of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, that goal was made all the more important.
“The need for Thanksgiving this year is much larger than in past years. Many people are finding the extra money they would normally have to purchase Thanksgiving food is a much smaller pot this year,” Allayn Beck, executive director of the food bank, said. “Another big impact on need is the lack of large gatherings. Families that would normally get together and share the cost of a meal are not getting together.”
Because of this increased need, the food bank was compelled to host a Thanksgiving for Centre County event on Tuesday, in which holiday meal supplies were distributed to families from throughout Centre County in a safe drive-through distribution process.
As in past years, the State College Food Bank has worked to supply other county food charities with holiday rations in addition to its own Thanksgiving distribution.
“We have given turkeys and all the fixings for a Thanksgiving meal for each of their clients," Beck said. "This year, each pantry’s needs were different, so we worked with each of them to help as best we can. We continued to supply all of our regular clients with a frozen turkey and Thanksgiving fixings, along with our partner agencies such as Strawberry Fields and Park Forest Pre-School.
“This year we wanted to take it one step further, because of COVID. The goal of the Thanksgiving for Centre County event is to reach those in Centre County who do not meet income qualifications for their local pantry, but could still use some help to get through the holiday because of the current pandemic.”
The Nov. 17 event, held in partnership with the State College Area School District and Central PA Food Bank, distributed food to nearly 700 households in a drive-through procedure that followed the format SCASD uses for its weekly lunch pickup. The food was delivered that day by the Central PA Food Bank. Everyone who pre-registered received a turkey, a pre-packed box of food and holiday fixings, fresh milk and eggs.
“We want to reach individuals and families in the county who don’t necessarily need help all year-round, but could benefit from a little help around the holiday,” said Beck. “We hope by receiving a Thanksgiving meal today, families will be able to re-direct some of their money to other things and lessen everyone’s financial burden this holiday.”
Throughout the pandemic, the State College Food Bank has worked diligently to keep its clients, volunteers and staff safe. Beck said the area was able to respond quickly to the challenges caused by the pandemic. She said the food bank changed its income guidelines to help meet the increased need caused by the pandemic and also worked closely with other programs to make sure they had what they needed.
“What is great about Centre County is there was already a working food network in place, and on top of that our community is so caring that even more programs were started to help those facing food insecurity because of the pandemic," Beck said. "Thanks to the county pantry system (State College Food Bank, Faith Centre, Central PA Community Action, Howard Area Food Pantry, Centre Hall Food Pantry, Snow Shoe and Mountain Top Food Pantry), the YMCA, restaurants, churches, school districts and community groups, there are multiple avenues for people to receive food.”
She added that community members have been instrumental in making sure no one in Centre County goes hungry.
“Our community is beyond amazing and giving. It truly is humbling to see the support we have received this year," Beck said. "We have people bringing us their free turkeys from the grocery store, we have children collecting food for their birthdays, we have donors answering our call for help, we have passionate volunteers coming in to help in the middle of a pandemic, and so much more — it’s amazing to see.
"The kindness we receive from our community fuels our efforts to provide hunger relief for hundreds of struggling individuals and families in Centre County. We couldn’t do what we are doing without all of the support we receive and can’t say ‘thank you’ enough. It is clear that our community doesn’t want anyone to go hungry, so we are answering their call and doing just that. Thanksgiving for Centre County is one of the many ways we are helping.”
Beck said sourcing food has been difficult since COVID started and it is helpful when people bring food listed on the panty’s current needs list, which can be found on its website, scfoodbank.org.
“Every donation, large or small, helps more than ever this year,” Beck said.
She said her staff is ready to help those in need at (814) 234-2310.