By Konstantine Fekos
Down from last year but still going strong is how Meadville volunteers described the 13th annual Drive-Thru Holiday Food Drive to benefit local food pantries that serve as member agencies of the Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest Pennsylvania.
After Wednesday’s 6:30 p.m. close at the Meadville drop-off site, the Tribune’s parking lot, site coordinators calculated approximately 6,269 pounds of food, $7,490.50 donated in cash, 46 frozen turkeys and, new this year, three hams.
This year’s numbers are down by about $500 and 75 turkeys, while the 2010 food donation record stands at 9,685 pounds.
Lower numbers, however, failed to deter the spirit of giving just prior to the holiday season, according to Brittany Chapman, AmeriCorps VISTA.
“People are in pretty high spirits and there are more than enough volunteers,” she said, tabulating numbers in the Tribune parking lot. “The (donors) are good and steady.”
Meadville’s drop-off site was one of 10 in northwest Pennsylvania. In all, the region’s Drive-Thru Holiday Food Drive, sponsored by Erie-based Lilly Broadcasting, collected approximately 38,300 pounds of food, $38,431 in cash donations and 367 frozen turkeys at 10 drop-off sites, including Erie, Warren, Corry, Franklin, Titusville, Edinboro, Waterford and East Springfield.
Volunteers, mostly from Allegheny College and King’s Family Restaurant in Vernon Township, accepted nonperishables and some dry goods from community members as early as 6 a.m. Wednesday.
“It’s cold, but good,” said Allegheny College freshman Delaney Heard, whose passion for community service helped her overcome the chilly weather. “It’s been a lot of fun. I was surprised by the turnout and willingness to give.”
Meadville’s generosity is especially pertinent this year, given recent statewide cuts to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefit funding, according to Ann Donikowski, special programs coordinator for Second Harvest.
The latest Department of Public Welfare statistics report more than 14,100 adults and children in Crawford County currently benefit from the food stamp program — many of whom will feel the crunch this holiday season, Donikowski said.
“It’s a trickle-down effect; when people have trouble helping themselves, it’s hard to help other families,” she said, attributing the decrease in donations partially to donor burnout.
While the issue of local hunger isn’t going away any time soon, she added, Second Harvest and local pantries are grateful for the still-generous outpouring witnessed at the drop-off site.
“Meadville stepped up to the plate (Wednesday) despite the economy,” Donikowski said, emphasizing the impact of every can and penny donated. “And all the food stayed here.”
Konstantine Fekos can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at email@example.com.