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Ma's Pantry volunteers Louise Beswick, Catie Sickler and Edward Sites, president, helped distribute the boxes of non-perishable food items part of the East Allegheny Gobble Giveaway. (Kristen Keleschenyi photo for Tube City Almanac)
East Allegheny School District collaborated with numerous community organizations to provide food, flu shots, clothing and school supplies to hundreds of local families at a Gobble Giving event held at the junior-senior high school on Monday.
Organizations on hand included the Allegheny County Health Department, Communities in Schools, Ma’s Pantry, Duquesne University School of Pharmacy, Turtle Creek Community Services, Auberle, and Nutrition Inc. Seventy percent of students that attend East Allegheny schools qualify for free or reduced lunches.
“There is a high level of food insecurity in the Mon Valley,” says Melanie Readal, public health administrator for the Allegheny County Health Department, “that's why a lot of times when we do events where we do work with our community partners and municipalities that we encourage food distribution just to make sure that we're decreasing the stigma around food insecurity.”
Readal says the pandemic has only intensified the need for nutritional assistance.
Ma’s Pantry, based in East McKeesport and operating out of Broadway Alliance Church, provided 200 boxes of dry food, Thanksgiving themed, so people could make specialty items for their families since large gatherings this year are discouraged. The organization has worked with the district before but this was their first ever truckload distribution.
Along with the immunizations and food, the district’s Free Store was open for families who may be in need of clothing, coats, hygiene and school supplies. The store is run by the district’s LifeSkills students who help organize and sort donations that are received from the community.
EA paraprofessional Jane Schuneman, who works alongside these students both in the classroom and in the store, says they normally serve about 50 kids per month but, with most students attending classes virtually, they haven’t been able to help as many kids as usual.
Chelsey Pucka, a social worker with Communities in Schools, is assigned to EA and helped coordinate the Gobble Giveaway. Mark Draskovich, pupil services coordinator, said when the district was approached about the idea it was an instant, “Yes, please help.”
Pucka says they are planning to do another event like this in December. “Luckily, the EA school district is very open to these new kinds of events and allows us to be a home for caring for their families. That‘s the feeling we wanted people to leave with today — that we love them. We wanted to feed their bellies and feed their souls.”
Kristen Keleschenyi is a freelance writer in North Versailles Twp. and one of the hosts of the Kristen & Amber Show on WMCK Internet Radio at 5 p.m. Saturdays, 9 p.m. Mondays and 4 p.m. Thursdays. She may be reached at email@example.com.
Originally published November 26, 2020.