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Central PA Food Bank holds annual Thanksgiving distribution

Central PA Food Bank holds annual Thanksgiving distribution

MARK NANCE/Sun-Gazette Dennis Conner of Muncy removes frozen turkeys from boxes to be destributed during the turkey giveaway at the Newberry Church of Christ Thursday. Twice a month, the Central PA Food Bank distributes food to people in need at the church, but this month, 120 turkeys were part of the meal, thanks to Tony Ecker, owner of the Brickyard Restaurant & Ale House.

In Lycoming County, 12.7 percent of the population struggles with food insecurity, said Carla Fisher, communication and marketing director for the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank, 3301 Wahoo Drive. Of that percentage, 6,663 are children, 1,432 are seniors and 426 are military, according to statistics published by the Food Bank.

The organization works with local pantries to feed those facing food insecurity year-round and recently continued the annual tradition of partnering with the food pantry at Newberry Church of Christ to ensure everyone in the area can celebrate Thanksgiving Day with a turkey and all the fixings.

“Holidays call to mind the season of giving,” Fisher said, “yet hunger doesn’t take a holiday. Our community is better when we join hands and help in the fight against hunger.”

Turkeys were provided through the efforts of two local restaurateurs, Tony Ecker and Charles Imbro, owners of the Brickyard Restaurant and Ale House and the Stonehouse Pizza and Pasteria. They and their staff volunteered at the distribution site at the church on Linn Street. Both owners were pleased to be able to give back.

“It’s great to partner with Central Pennsylvania Food Bank so we can give back right here in the community,” Imbro said.

On the day of distribution, a back room at the church was a hive of activity directed by pantry manager Patricia Bryan. She has served in that position at the Newberry Church of Christ host site, her church, for about 30 years. The pantry serves those facing food insecurity twice monthly.

“I feel that the Lord has put me here,” Bryan said. “To me this is my calling. Each of us has something we’re still here for.”

Fisher pointed out that the food bank and area pantries work hard to provide nutritious food to many people. “We even say no to sugary drinks and candy,” she said.

Looking around, “you can see everything we have here is nutritious, like the fresh produce, grapes, peppers and olives,” Bryan added.

“This all comes from the Food Bank,” Fisher said. “We are able to partner with MidAtlantic Regional Co-Op to get produce all year round.”

The Food Bank also works with local farmers.

For the distribution of the uncooked turkeys, produce and ingredients for fixings, those waiting in line file through to pick up the bags that have been assembled for them to take home.

Bryan expected to provide Thanksgiving dinner for about 150 families. A few people in line were willing to speak about the importance of the Thanksgiving event.

A woman who wanted to remain anonymous said that with the cost of groceries going up, the Food Bank was a help to her.

Another individual added, “it’s hard to feed a family with so many of us, and I have to make sure they have the food before I even eat.”

Linda Foster said as a widow living just on social security, she also finds grocery store prices too expensive, especially for meats. When she has extra, she said she shares with her neighbors.

Shirley Moore, who has lived in Williamsport for about six years, said she enjoys the recipes that are included for preparation of the side dishes. Her favorites are the stuffing and the butternut squash.

The Central PA Food Bank serves those facing food insecurity in 27 states from the Maryland border north to the New York border, Fisher said.

One in 10 Central Pennsylvanians, including one in six children, face hunger every day,” Fisher added, and 60 percent of those served are working families with children struggling to make ends meet. The Food Bank works with more than 1,000 local agencies and programs in Central Pennsylvania and serves over 135,000 “neighbors in need” each month.

Holidays are critical times for families facing hunger, as children are home and not receiving meals at school, Fisher pointed out.

Joe Arthur, executive director of the Food Bank, has said, “Food security is really about enough healthy food every day to lead a healthy life. We are committed to our neighbors in need. To do this we must work together to build new and stronger partnerships. We know if we provide access to nutritious foods, we can help people thrive.”

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