Why Are We Different?
As with most government funding, food aid from traditional food banks is calculated based upon the Federal poverty calculation, meaning a family of four with two parents working full-time can still be food insecure.
for Traditional Pantry Model
Would NOT Qualify
for Traditional Pantry Model
By working diligently and earning a raise, that food-insecure family will not longer qualify for traditional food pantry support, as well as other government programs they relied on such as rental assistance, utility assistance, education assistance, or child care. People are working hard to support their families, but now they are put into a worse financial situation.
It’s a dilemma, affecting nearly half of the food-insecure population in Washington County, but Food Helpers provides the solution. By breaking away from government-funded distributions, we are free to serve every household that needs help. Food Helpers believe that we can end hunger by creating sustainable communities through equitable access to aid, education, and resources.
Taking a More Innovative Approach to the Food Bank Model
For over 42 years the Greater Washington County Food Bank, a non-profit organization, has been providing groceries and nutritional information/education to food insecure residents of Washington County. It is estimated that Washington County currently has over 26,000 people who are food insecure. We distribute food through our network of 38 distribution sites (13 public sites and 18 senior hi-rise/apartment locations) and with agencies throughout the county. Currently over 30% of our recipients are children under the age of 18, and over 20% are seniors. We rely primarily on community support to meet these objectives in a caring and compassionate way.
In 2016, Greater Washington County Food Bank moved to a larger facility located in Brownsville. The former Country Thrift Market on National Pike, the facility came with 22 acres of land as well as retail space. It was during this transition that the long-term vision of what the services the organization could provide to those that we serve came to light.
First, a training center opened in an effort to offer educational opportunities and culinary classes to help clients learn how to make healthy meals and work on other life skills to improve their lives. Healthy Habits Training Center has hosted numerous classes from cooking classes, hydroponic classes, gardening classes, and financial education opportunities.
Next, a retail space was put to use as a thrift market to sell gently used items ranging from clothes, children’s toys, kitchen accessories, books and movies, as well as many more items available for purchase. Country Thrift Market is open to the public, and net proceeds are supporting the activities that occur at Food Helpers.
Most recently, the farm land has been put to use with multiple areas of focus. The Farm is home to a full orchard, fully-operational hydroponic containers, raised beds, a greenhouse, as well as farmland for planting crops.
The development of these complementary programs allowed our organization to not only feed the hungry, but address the socioeconomic factors that leads someone towards food insecurity. By providing education and resources, low-cost retail experiences, and instruction on growing one’s own food, we can weaken the chain of events that leads to food insecurity.
After years of constant recognition for our innovative approaches to the food banking model, we decided in January of 2020 that we would rebrand our non-profit as a group that not only feeds the hungry, but helps the hungry and those at-risk.
Food Helpers connects those in need with those who can help. It’s altruistic name brings our community in Washington County and Southwestern Pennsylvania together as someone who can help. By designating Greater Washington County Food Bank, Healthy Habits Training Center, Country Thrift Market, and The FARM as four unique programs under Food Helper’s umbrella, we can provide a well-rounded experience of escaping the food insecurity cycle. Greater Washington County Food Bank focuses on distribution of the freshest, locally grown produce, providing nutritious meals instead of just calories in bulk. Healthy Habits Training Center will get involved with educational resources, providing classes and opportunities to make meaningful changes to overcome personal struggles leading to food insecurity. Country Thrift Market will continue to offer a discounted retail experience compared to available options in the area. The Farm will provide hands-on opportunities for learning to grow one’s own food and becoming self-sustaining in the food supply chain. Together, we can all be Food Helpers.