The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

Local News

April 28, 2013

Stuff the ballot box to help food pantry

SHENANGO VALLEY — A few clicks of the mouse is all it will take for supporters of the Community Food Warehouse of Mercer County to help make a huge difference in making sure some area elementary school students have enough to eat.

A $3 million Wal-Mart grant will be split among 40 food banks nationally and as of Saturday, the local food pantry has gotten enough votes to rank it No. 11.

Votes can be cast daily through Tuesday at

“But the others are close enough behind us that they could knock us out, so we want to be sure and have a comfortable lead. If we get it, it would mean $45,000 to fund our backpack program, which feeds 560 children locally who without the backpack often don’t eat from lunchtime Friday until Monday morning,” said Lori Weston, director of the food warehouse.

Handled completely by  “hundreds” of volunteers, the backpack program is paid for with money raised by involved churches and other donations, rather than coming from the food warehouse budget, said Mimi Prada, assistant director.

This is the fourth year that the food warehouse has done the backpack program during the school year and feeds children from Hermitage, Sharon, Reynolds, West Middlesex. New Wilmington school district plans to join in the fall, Prada said.

Singling out those children who need the food without embarrassing them is a bit tricky, Prada said, and they rely on teachers and other school officials to determine, beyond just the financial guidelines, who may need assistance. And parental permission is required too, Prada said.

Before the program started, some teachers in Hermitage were buying food for children to take home for the weekends, and paying for it themselves. “Because they were noticing that some of the kids were coming Monday and couldn’t concentrate, or went to the nurse complaining of a stomachache and putting things together, they realized that they hadn’t eaten since lunch Friday at school,” she said.

“There was one little girl that I was told about who was fighting in line Monday morning just to get to breakfast. Others were taking the food left over on other’s plates and hiding it in their pockets,” Prada said. “And these children have an excellent attendance record. They won’t miss school because they don’t want to miss out on eating,” she added.

Rather than giving the students an extra backpack to carry, the food, which includes single-size portions of things such cereal, milk, fruit cups, applesauce, peanut butter, pastas, juice, is packed into a plastic bag that can be tucked into a child’s school backpack. Occasionally, if someone donates fresh fruit such as apples or pears, they include those. “And they love it. They just go crazy for it,” she added.

The thanks they receive, Weston said, is overwhelming.  Although monthly reports are generated about what is distributed, it’s the cards the children send that mean the most. “And we can see, immediately, what kind of an impact this program is having,” she said.

“This was one of my goals when I took over as director. I knew about the backpack program in other areas and I wanted to start it here,” Weston, who has been in charge since 2005, said.

It costs about $25 per month per child, she said, and the fund-raising efforts of local churches and other groups is “phenomenal.”

If the food warehouse can remain in the top 40 vote-getters, the money will help expand the program to either increase the food already given or add additional students, Weston said.

Celebrating its 30th anniversary, the food warehouse has a host of events planned for the rest of the year, all aimed at increasing hunger awareness. Those events include:

ä Plant-a-Row, where farmers and gardeners are asked to plant an extra row in their garden to donate to the food bank. The program was started last year and growers from ages 4 to 84 brought in their bounty to share.

ä The 4th annual Race to End Hunger, scheduled for Saturday, August 3, held in conjunction with WaterFire in Sharon. The 5K/2 mile walk will be the first event of the WaterFire day’s activities. Volunteers are needed on race day, Weston said.

ä September is designated as Hunger Action Month. Encouraged by Feeding America, the country’s network of food banks, to hold as many activities as possible, including food drives and hunger awareness presentations. In partnership with Penn State Cooperative Extension, the county’s first Hunger Summit will be held from 10 a.m. to noon Sept. 12  at the Penn State Extension office in Mercer. Weston said it is an opportunity for service providers, businesses, government officials, churches and residents to meet and discuss how to serve those suffering from hunger.

ä Poverty simulation will be held Sept. 6 at Penn State Shenango. Weston hopes to involve local legislators,  government officials and agency leaders to play the roles of the impoverished. Anyone interested in participating can contact the food warehouse at (724) 981-0383.

ä In October, the food warehouse will hold its anniversary celebration dinner at Avalon Country Club at 5:30 p.m. Oct. 24.

ä The annual Hermitage Light-Up Night parade in November will feature vehicles decorated by the food warehouse.

ä An annual direct mail holiday fundraiser, “Each One Feed One” will be held in December.

While financial support is always appreciated, Weston and Prada said there are other ways supporters can get involved.

“We always have a need for food drives, at any time of the year. Summer months are lean times for food banks when the need is great. Children are home from school and not receiving school lunches which adds a burden to families seeking food assistance,” Weston said.

Anyone wishing to donate food, money or time, can contact Prada at

Text Only
Local News
  • Intruder hurts woman, takes $5

    A home invasion in Hermitage Friday night sent an elderly woman to the hospital and netted the robber $5.

    July 27, 2014

  • national night out March against crime set for Aug. 5

    At the last Southwest Mercer County Regional Police Commission meeting, Chief Riley Smoot Jr. presented the number of incidents for each of the four communities in May.

    Farrell topped out at 819.

    July 27, 2014 1 Photo

  • high street trail Peaceful pathways

    History buffs and picnickers in the Shenango Valley won’t have to drive to Sharpsville to hang out at the old Erie Canal extension lock. They’ll soon have the option to walk or roll in on bicycles and even powered chairs to visit Canal Park near the outflow of Shenango Dam.

    July 27, 2014 1 Photo

  • balloonquest1 Balloon Quest celebrates 25 years

    Today is the final day of the 25th annual Western Pennsylvania Balloon Quest at Scotland Meadows Park.

    July 27, 2014 1 Photo

  • News briefs from July 26, 2014

    Man faces bomb threat charges

    June building tops $4 million in Hermitage

    July 26, 2014

  • Elderly man survives plane crash

    An elderly man survived wrecking his plane into a bank, then landing into a wetland, about 200 feet south of Runway 28 at Grove City Regional Airport in Springfield Township on Friday.

    July 26, 2014

  • Dontae Rashad Pinkins Man arrested for April gunfight

    Federal marshals and local police arrested Dontae Rashad Pinkins Thursday on a warrant accusing him of involvement in an April gunfight with another man in a Sharon alley.

    July 26, 2014 1 Photo

  • Hearing changed in starving case

    The time and place for the preliminary hearing of a Greenville mom accused of starving and beating her 7-year-old young son has been changed.

    July 26, 2014

  • Schell working on mural Drawn to Mexico

    Jason Schell probably is not exaggerating when he says that millions of people have seen his art.

    July 26, 2014 4 Photos

  • Farrell man, 24, arrested on warrant in connection with April shooting

    Federal marshals and local police arrested Dontae Rashad Pinkins Thursday on a warrant accusing him of involvement in an April shootout in Sharon.

    Pinkins, 24, of Farrell, is in Mercer County Jail after failing to post bond on gun charges.

    Additional details to follow.

    July 25, 2014

  • Firm will study timing of traffic signals

    Hermitage commissioners on Wednesday hired Whitman, Requardt and Associates LLP to study the timing scheme of traffic signals along parts of Hermitage Road and East State Street.

    July 25, 2014

  • 3 area fire depts. awarded grants

    Three area fire departments will share in more than $590,000 in grants meant to help Pennsylvania’s rural communities guard against the threat of fires in forests and other undeveloped areas, Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary Ellen Ferretti announced.

    July 25, 2014

  • One suspect in home shooting is jailed

    The first of three suspects police say were involved in an attempted robbery that ended in a shooting is in jail.

    July 25, 2014

  • Dancing kids K.I.D.S. day

    Hoping to reach children at just the right age, when they are old enough to understand but not past the point where it may be too late, Mercer County Behavioral Health Commission counselors held an “alternative activities” day at the courthouse Thursday, complete with music and dancing, hot dogs and treats, games and T-shirts.

    July 25, 2014 2 Photos

  • Better security Grant available to boost security in district courts

    County officials are looking to quickly upgrade security systems in the five district judge offices, not due to an increase in risk, but because current systems are antiquated and there is a short window to apply for some financial help with the costs.

    July 24, 2014 1 Photo