Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank launches initiative to assist smaller organizations
PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Thanksgiving is six weeks away, and there are so many Pittsburgh-area families who need help to have a warm holiday meal.
In fact, there are also so many people who need help year-round, but many of them aren’t always sure where to find it. However, a new effort from the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank is trying to change that.
Jubilee Kitchen has stood at the corner of Wyandotte Street and Fifth Avenue in the Hill District since 1979. It’s provided help and hope to thousands, if not millions, of people over that time.
But while Jubilee Kitchen’s physical footprint has been firmly planted for decades, its digital footprint was not.
“We had a website that was not used very well. We had a Facebook page we weren’t aware of, and we had a LinkedIn page that was not utilized,” executive director Mark Latterner said.
All across the Pittsburgh area, there are hundreds of smaller community food pantries in the same boat.
“A lot of them struggle with being visible online,” said David Chudnow, digital marketing coordinator – partner support at the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank.
Latterner said, “Organizations like ours, we live off of donations, right? So we can’t have expansive staffs and for us to have an IT person, a development person or a finance person, it becomes very expensive for small organizations to do that.”
So about a year ago, the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank decided to do something about that. It came up with the Digital Transformation Initiative.
Since the beginning of this year, a two-person team at the food bank has worked with more than two dozen food pantries to help them create or recreate their online presence.
“It was a very painless process for us, but it significantly improved our digital footprint,” said Latterner.
The team designed or re-designed the pantries’ websites, as well as created or boosted their social media accounts.
Chudnow added, “Another thing that we’re doing is we’re going through Google search results. And so if we search for a pantry, they might not show up on Google. They might not show up on Apple Maps or Waze. And so if someone’s looking for them, they might not be there. So we’re making sure that they are visible online. We’re literally putting them on the map.”
And here’s why that’s important. Take Jubilee Kitchen, for example. It serves 125 meals a day, delivers food to 70 shut-ins twice a month and helps 300 families every month at its food pantries at its main location in the Hill District as well as in Polish Hill.
It offers showers, clothing, financial assistance and a litany of social services. It even runs a highly-rated day care center for low-income families.
But just imagine how many more people Jubilee Kitchen could help if more people knew where to find it. The proof is in the pudding. Jubilee Kitchen’s new website went online just a few months ago and it has already seen a difference.
“We’ve had over 200 volunteers and some of those are groups of people. But we’ve also, more importantly, had over 40 people contact us to get help,” said Latterner.
The re-designed websites all connect to each other, taking that already-increased accessibility to the next level.
“I know that the work that we’re doing is helping people who really don’t know what to do. They’re in crisis or they’ve never been food insecure before, and so they Google ‘find food near me’ and now they can,” Chudnow said.
Latterner added, “I’m going to quote Gandhi. He said people who are hungry can only see God through food. And if we want to make a difference, that’s how you do it. We can make a difference in these people’s lives. We can help them to become stable and then give them hope.”
The food bank plans to continue this program with other food pantries and already has several interested organizations.
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