In 1989, North Hills Community Outreach (NHCO) realized that a large percentage of their food distribution clients lived in the Borough of Etna. With that in mind, NHCO approached the Reverend Tom Menk, Pastor of Calvert Memorial Presbyterian Church located in Etna, to explore the possibility of the church opening a food bank with seed money from NHCO. He agreed, and a small pantry serving 25 families per month opened. By 2002, the pantry had grown to serving 130 families per month. At that time, Reverend Cynthia Jackson, Pastor at Calvert Memorial, applied for an Enhancement Grant from the Pittsburgh Presbytery to expand and renovate the existing pantry. Calvert Memorial received the grant and the project was developed.
As an Eagle Scout project, Brandon Erhardt along with other volunteers from Parkwood Presbyterian Church, cleaned the church basement at Calvert Memorial, painted its walls, and installed shelves to hold food. Other volunteers from Glenshaw Presbyterian Church along with the volunteers from Parkwood, constructed two offices in the pantry and installed a large fence and two locking gates. New steel doors with crash bars were installed along with upgrades to the lighting and electrical system. The changes enhanced the appearance of the pantry and led to a more organized and efficient distribution process.
Since its inception, the Bread of Life Food Pantry has faced several challenges. In September 2004, a devastating flood hit Etna and other Pittsburgh river communities. During this time, additional people became dependent on the pantry for sustenance. More recently in March 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic impacted the pantry too. Not only did new people turn to the pantry for help, but the pantry's distribution system had to be completely re-modified to limit the possibility of spreading the contagion. In late 2021, the pantry was able to return to its original shopping model and policies popular with many families the pantry serves.
The Bread of Life Food Pantry continues to focus on its original mission adopted when it opened in 1989. The pantry's purpose, values, and goals remain concentrated on helping those experiencing food insecurity in Etna Borough and Shaler Township as well as surrounding communities.