Squirrel Hill Community Food Pantry

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Stories of Hope

In 1937, Squirrel Hill Community Food Pantry parent agency Jewish Family & Children's Service was founded on the concept of Tikkun Olam, repair the world. The mission: to make the world a better place by improving lives. The Squirrel Hill Food Pantry is a key component, providing support to the most vulnerable individuals and families in our community. At the Food Pantry, we are dedicated to helping people who are struggling with hunger and its underlying issues. We offer food and supportive services within an environment of caring and respect for human dignity and diversity. We help those we serve to turn life's challenges into opportunities, to improve their lives and to find new hope.


Daniel's Story

Daniel and his wife and four children came to Pittsburgh for him to complete a surgical internship at UPMC. Surgical interns don't earn very much money, so Daniel also picked up additional work to make extra money to support his family's daily needs.

Daniel fell and broke his hip and was unable to work for some months. His wife, who was pregnant at the time, was at home taking care of the children and was able to also care for Daniel; but without the extra income Daniel had been bringing in, they were really struggling. 

“When one of my colleague's told me about the Squirrel Hill Community Food Pantry, at first I was reluctant to ask for help,” Daniel says, "but the welfare of my family had to come before my pride. They were a tremendous help during our time of need."

The Squirrel Hill Community Food Pantry helped Daniel and his family get through this temporary crisis. They provided home deliveries of non-perishable foods, fresh fruits and vegetables, household cleaning supplies and diapers during Daniel's recovery.

During his recovery, their fifth child was born and he soon returned to work.

Once back on their feet, this young family no longer needed to rely on the Squirrel Hill Community Food Pantry for supplemental food and other household items. But, says Daniel, "we don't know what we would have done without them."

Alicia and Jeff's Story

When Alicia and Jeff's 17-year-old son was diagnosed with leukemia, he had to attend many doctor's appointments and required extensive home care as well. In order to care for her son during this time, Alicia took an unpaid leave from her job, putting a strain on family finances.

The family received assistance from the Squirrel Hill Community Food Pantry staff, which enrolled them in the food stamp program in addition to providing the family with supplemental food. While this family received services, Alicia found time to volunteer and help pack bags at the Pantry as a way to give back for the help she and her family received.

“I don’t know what we would have done without the Pantry,” she said. “I was so grateful for their help.”

After a few months, Alicia and Jeff's son was doing well enough with his treatment that Alicia could return to work part-time, and the family no longer needed Pantry support.

*Names changed to protect client confidentiality.

Phil’s Story

76-year-old Phil had always been independent. He worked hard all his life to support himself and his family, saving what he could for retirement. His late wife's illness had depleted much of his savings and he was having a hard time covering his rent, food and utility bills. He was not filling prescription medicines he should have been and was not eating well.

Phil’s neighbor convinced him to seek help from the Squirrel Hill Community Food Pantry.

The Food Pantry's Resource Coordinator did a thorough assessment of Phil's needs. He was enrolled in the government food stamp program and as a Pantry client and now receives home-delivered supplemental food. The Food Pantry resource coordinator was also able to connect Phil with additional community programs to help with utility assistance and some home safety improvements.

With the relief provided by the Food Pantry and other programs, Phil's Social Security and savings adequately cover his expenses. Although Phil is still very independent, ongoing contact ensures that, as the issues associated with aging lead to new challenges for Phil, the support and services he needs are put into place, either through the direct services of the Pantry's social service and resource coordinator or connection to services within Pantry parent agency Jewish Family & Children's Service or other available programs and services.

*Name changed to protect client confidentiality.

Norman's Story

At 52 years of age, Norman got hurt on the job and was forced to retire...well before he planned. His wife Ann was working full-time at a local drug store, and he was able to get disability and SSI (Supplementary Security Income). However, they still did not have enough to cover their rent, food, utilities, clothing and the medical care Norman needs.

Norman and Ann sought help from the Squirrel Hill Community Food Pantry.

In addition to providing the supplemental food Norman and Ann need to ensure they are eating sufficient and nutritious meals, the Food Pantry Resource Coordinator arranged for some home care for Norman while Ann was at work. She was also able to connect them with a community program that made some much-needed improvements to their home to make it safer for Norman to move around.

The supplemental food and other supportive services Norman and Ann now receive enable Norman and Ann to live with a significantly higher quality of life than they had been since Norman was forced to retire. They no longer go to bed hungry or "forget" to fill prescriptions. And Ann doesn't worry that Norm is stranded at home all day. Norman will get a pension when he turns 62 and this will provide them sufficient income to reclaim their independence. But until he does, Ann and Norman know they can count on the Squirrel Hill Community Food Pantry for help.

*Names changed to protect client confidentiality.

Kathy’s Story

Kathy, a single mother of two school-aged boys, recently completed a master's degree program so that she could get a higher paying job to support her family. As she looked for work in her profession, she needed food assistance. Because Kathy had enjoyed her summer camp experiences as a child, she wanted to make sure that her children got to attend camps, too, but she could not afford to send them.

Kathy not only received food assistance from the Food Pantry, she also met with the Resource Coordinator, who was able to help her access the funds needed to buy summer clothes for her growing sons.

The Resource Coordinator also provided referrals for summer camp scholarships. A career counselor from JF&CS's Career Development Center helped Kathy with her job search, too.

After three months of support, Kathy found a teaching job and is able to provide for her family without the need for food from the Squirrel Hill Community Food Pantry.

*Name changed to protect client confidentiality.

Yael and Michael's Story

In order to begin their new lives in Pittsburgh, Yael and Michael, both highly trained professionals in their native Israel, needed job search services, food assistance and information about other community services.

An in-take was done at the Food Pantry and the family signed up to receive supplemental food.

In addition, the JF&CS Resource Coordinator met with Yael and Michael to determine other short- and long-term needs. She referred Yael to the Career Development Center, where she worked with a career counselor who specializes in working with immigrants. Yael secured a full-time job with benefits to support her entire family, and Michael brings in additional income through consulting projects which enables him to be home for their children when they return from school.

With both parents earning income, the family no longer needs the support of the Squirrel Hill Community Food Pantry for food assistance.

*names changed to protect client confidentiality.

Betty's Story

Betty suffered multiple losses in a short time span. She no longer had enough money to make ends meet. With the loss of her beloved husband, she became depressed and also very isolated since it was difficult for her to get around on her own. She missed meals, she didn't go to the doctor and her bills were piling up.

A thoughtful neighbor contacted the Squirrel Hill Community Food Pantry on Betty’s behalf and a Resource Coordinator went out to visit with Betty.

Given permission, she spent time with Betty and did a comprehensive assessment of Betty's needs in order to determine what services and supports Betty needed to regain stability. In addition to supplemental food from the Food Pantry, Betty was connected to JF&CS's Squirrel Hill Psychological Services and she began receiving home-based therapy to help her through the grieving process. She was also connected to JF&CS's Elder Care services whose staff helped Betty secure a caregiver who would help her for a short time each day, and also connected Betty with our Friend in Deed program which provides Betty with escort support to shop, go to the doctor, etc.

Betty is working through the loss of her husband and is no longer at-risk of hunger, eviction or isolation because she is getting supplemental food, her bills are being paid and her caregiver and escort ensure that she gets to doctor's appointments, to appropriate older adult social activities and the store. The Food Pantry Resource Coordinator will maintain an ongoing relationship with Betty to ensure that, as she ages and her needs change, Betty is connected to the resources she needs to live safely and comfortably.

*Name changed to protect client confidentiality.


Contact Us

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Watch our video highlighting our volunteers!
We debuted this short, documentary-style video at our Annual Meeting, which recognizes the volunteers who help us ignite hope in the hearts of our clients.
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What do we need this month?
March is our time to prepare for Passover distribution, and we ask that you support this effort by donating kosher for Passover foods. We provide our clients with the Seder staples, but any other foods that you enjoy during Passover are welcome donations. Not sure what else the Pantry needs? Refer to our Pantry Shopping List.
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Stay Connected: SHCFP Enews
Stay connected to the Pantry with our monthly enewsletter: Learn about volunteer opportunities, donation needs, advocacy efforts and more Pantry news!
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Southwestern PA Food Security Partnership
To learn more about the issue of hunger in Southwestern PA, click below.
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