With winter around the corner, York County Food Bank prepares for increased demand

Tina Locurto
York Dispatch

With winter just around the corner, the York County Food Bank is preparing for an influx of new families seeking food resources during the holiday season.

More families and individuals coming to the food bank haven't sought its services before, according to president and CEO Jennifer Brillhart.

"We hear stories all the time, a person could be one paycheck away from battling food insecurity," she said. "Their job goes away or they have a health care crisis in their life. Whatever it is they find themselves in, they are in need of assistance."

Cars wait as about 800 families are served during a food distribution event, provided by Price Rite Marketplace, Feed the Children, Nabisco, Frito-Lay and York County Food Bank, at Living Word Community Church in York Township, Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2022. Dawn J. Sagert/The York Dispatch

Even as the food bank assists an influx of new and returning families, it is dealing with its own issues.

Inflation and supply chain issues — complications spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic — have not yet disappeared.

The nonprofit's food boxes, which typically contained up to six different vegetables before, now might contain four cans of stewed tomatoes, Brillhart said.

"We're spending more money than we have in the past in terms of our food costs and food purchases," she said. "Unfortunately, we don't have as much variety and we just get creative in terms of what we are giving out to people."

Lisa Benner,  of Penn Township, volunteers with M & T Bank as about 800 families are served during a food distribution event at Living Word Community Church in York Township, Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2022. Dawn J. Sagert/The York Dispatch

Although the food bank has not had to cut costs, it is focusing energy on raising additional funds to meet the increased demand.

Other local businesses and organizations have stepped in where they can, includingPrice Rite Marketplace, which recently partnered with the food bank for an event to bring food and essentials to York County families.

The event, which was hosted Oct. 19 in Red Lion, brought out more than 800 families.

"I think we were excited that we were able to serve that many," Brillhart said. "You never know because it's timing: Can people make it during that particular two-hour time period?"

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For upcoming holidays like Thanksgiving, the York County Food Bank is anticipating higher demand for services.

One unforeseeable roadblock to affording turkeys was brought on by a different kind of epidemic: the avian flu outbreak.

"It's been hard for us to even find turkeys," Brillhart said. "We're trying to be creative and thoughtful, and also recognize that not all of our families will want a frozen turkey."

Jamal Brandon, left, and Raymond Christas, both 17, from Dallastown, unload donated turkeys at the York County Food Bank, Sunday, December 9, 2018. The volunteers from the Dallastown football and wrestling teams, picked up turkeys donated during the first ever "Bring York Turkey to Church Day." Six area churches encouraged their members to bring a turkey to worship service during the event.  
John A. Pavoncello photo

As part of the creativity and adaption to new challenges, the York County Food Bank this holiday season will be providing supermarket gift cards to allow families the option to buy the main dinner course they desire.

Convenience is crucial for the food bank's success, and having more pop-up delivery options means more families stay full, Brillhart said.

The nonprofit partnered with the delivery food company DoorDash, for example, to help bring home deliveries to York County's senior population.

"We recognize that not everybody even has the ability or the time to be able to visit one of our pantries," Brillhart said. "Eventually, we are going to be offering online shopping for our families and individuals. It's about building off the model of convenience."