By Brooks Broadhurst, Eat’n Park Hospitality Group; and Lou Cestello, head of regional markets and southwestern Pennsylvania regional president at PNC Bank. Both are members of the board of directors for United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania.
Whether it’s been people checking in on their neighbors, sending “thank yous” to front line workers or patronizing small businesses that play a critical role in our communities, Pittsburgh has once again shown a deep commitment to helping people in need during difficult times.
It was with that same spirit that the PNC Foundation, Eat’n Park Hospitality Group and United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania came together to create the Students and Families Food Relief Fund. In mid-March, when schools in the state closed indefinitely as a result of the pandemic, many students and their families in southwestern Pennsylvania were suddenly without access to subsidized meals they relied on during the school year. PNC and Eat’n Park partnered with United Way to immediately address this crisis by providing food to children and families as quickly and efficiently as possible.
From the beginning of the pandemic, there was no question about who would be the most effective community partner to facilitate this unprecedented collaboration. United Way has deep roots in our community, and the infrastructure they have in place allowed us to scale up quickly and make the biggest impact possible. Their ability to innovate and problem solve, from launching the food relief fund to establishing a Transportation Network to deliver meals and personal protective equipment across the region, has been instrumental in guiding our community through these hard times.
The PNC Foundation was glad to donate $1 million to start the food relief fund at United Way, which we estimate will provide more than 250,000 meals to people in need. Eat’n Park swiftly redeployed its restaurant staff and other employees to prepare tasty, nutritious meals at cost. Dining facilities at PNC’s offices were even used to cook and package the meals. Together, in a matter of months, we have delivered about 200,000 meals to students and families in Allegheny, Butler and Westmoreland counties.
Wherever there’s need, United Way is there.
The impact of the pandemic continues to be felt across our region. With United Way’s track record of proven success in innovative problem solving and ability to mobilize community resources, they’ve been able to immediately take action to address local food insecurity and other critical issues facing our vulnerable neighbors. The food relief fund is only the beginning.
We’re facing an extraordinary period of tragedy and uncertainty, but one thing is certain: As we’ve always done in this community, we will continue to help each other under the leadership of organizations like United Way. We will get through this together.
United Way is seeking more funders for the Students and Families Food Relief Fund. Anyone who’s interested can visit http://doyouliveunited.org/fsf or contact Linda Jones, United Way’s senior vice president for community philanthropy and fundraising, at firstname.lastname@example.org.