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  • Amy Jewitt

Food For the Soul

Food pantries count on Fox Chapel Church's Fill-the-Truck event to replenish shelves.

Written by Tawnya Panizzi, TribLive Staff

Photos by Louis B. Ruediger of TribLive and Fox Chapel Presbyterian Church

January 30, 2024

In his 20 years managing a food pantry in Indiana Township, Gil Cutruzzula said he can count on donations dipping just after the Christmas holiday — at the same time that need goes up.

“It’s like clockwork,” said Cutruzzula, pantry manager at the Council of Three Rivers American Indian Center on Charles Street. “The major food banks that help supply us are down with their quantity, so we need nonperishables very much. There’s always a lull.”

Enter Fox Chapel Presbyterian Church, whose members step in at just the right time with the annual Fill-the-Truck fundraiser. The event seeks enough food and household items to fill a box truck which are split between three local pantries — Council of Three Rivers, Bread of Life in Etna, and St. Vincent de Paul in Sharpsburg. “They pick us up, without fail, every year,” Cutruzzula said.

This year’s event was held on Feb. 4. Deacon Megan Sweringen said it’s a wonderful opportunity for volunteers of all ages to work together sorting, packing and filling the truck.

Last year, 265 boxes of cereal, paper plates, juice and pasta were distributed. The same charities will benefit again this year. Pastor Rebecca DePoe said the choices are deliberate because the three pantries serve families in the Fox Chapel Area School District.

Alexis Weber, longtime manager at the Etna food bank, said she counts on donations from the church to help the pantry through the winter months. “We are inundated in November and December,” she said. “It’s really nice that this food drive comes in every year after the holidays and helps to replenish our stock.” Weber looks for drop-offs of soup, crackers, peanut butter, and boxed meals to fill the shelves after serving upward of 1,500 families all year.

Bread of Life saw an increase of about 15%, or 200 additional families last year. The pantry served about 1,300 in 2022. “We are always desperate for crackers, soup and condiments,” Weber said.

In Sharpsburg, the St. Vincent de Paul pantry is run from the basement of St. Mary Church along Ninth Street. Founded in 1954, it serves about 150 families a month — that means about 300 people who get enough food to supplement their monthly grocery budget with a box full of shelf-stable items.

Cutruzzula said an added benefit of the church donations is that items supplement what each family is able to take home. “It helps fill their box a little more,” he said. Most needed items include oatmeal, soup, cereal and grits. “Canned vegetables come in handy, too, because you can store them longer,” Cutruzzula said. Anyone who can deliver food to the elderly or shut-ins is welcome to access the pantry, he said.



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