Pirates, Food Bank distribute meals to needy


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Pirates president Travis Williams helping to pack a car with food Saturday. -- Pittsburgh Pirates

Volunteers from the Pirates teamed the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank Saturday morning to help pack 800 cars with food. The event was partially funded by the Pirates, who donated $50,000 -- which is 250,000 meals -- to the food bank Friday.

The money the Pirates donated will help future distributions as well.

“This event is a great example of what we, as a Pittsburgh community, can do together to help our neighbors,” said Pirates president Travis Williams, who helped load cars Saturday. “We could not be more proud of our employee volunteers and the people of the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank who make this their mission every day.”

The food bank had planned to hold an event in the North Side Saturday, but moved the location to the ALCO parking lot between PNC Park and Heinz Field to help speed up distribution.

To minimize contact and decrease the chances of potentially spreading coronavirus, all the food was prepackaged in boxes, which were then loaded into the back of people's cars.

Brian Gullish, the vice president of marketing and communications at the food bank, said demand for donations has drastically increased in recent weeks due to the coronavirus outbreak. Gullish said that some distribution spots have been flooded with over a hundred people, where in the past they would get about a dozen.

"The need in our area is pretty high already," Dana Launius, one of the food bank's organizers for Saturday's event, said. "We know that we may need to serve families who have never needed our services, or maybe needed them a long time ago. We know that maybe in a month or so, we may start getting those calls from people who really need some support."

On Saturday, hundreds of cars queued by PNC Park before the event started, and people continued file in throughout the morning. On a normal Saturday on the North Side, they would expect about 400 people. They planned for 800 Saturday.

"[We're] incredibly grateful that they [the Pirates] took the initiative to say, 'hey, we want to get involved and helped you guys out,'" Guillish said. "Not just the financial side of it, but they had 15 volunteers here today. They have boots on the ground to help make this happen today."

Each vehicle was provided three boxes of food, weighing 75 lbs in total. That should be able to feed a family for four to seven days, Gullish said.

Overall, 60,000 lbs. of food was distributed.

"If we can do our small part to make sure people have food when they otherwise can't afford it, then we're happy to do that," Williams said.

Gullish said those who are looking to volunteer can find the schedule of times and distribution sites on the food bank's website, but stressed what they needs most right now is financial support.

"We want to be able to continue to bring the food in," Gullish said. "Every one dollar provided is five meals to the community... We want to be able to feed as many people as we can."

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