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Armstrong food banks have all the trimmings, but no turkeys

About 1,380 families receiving assistance from the food bank in Armstrong County won’t have turkeys this Thanksgiving.

The Armstrong County Community Action Agency wasn’t able to get vouchers for each of the families in time for their November food delivery Tuesday, so the organization decided to postpone delivering turkey vouchers until December, said Robin Rainey, the agency’s food bank manager.

Rainey said this month’s allotment included all the fixings for Thanksgiving – potatoes, carrots, onions, bread for stuffing, yams – but no turkey.

The agency relies on vouchers from the Greater Pittsburgh Food Bank, supplied through KDKA’s Turkey Fund, and donations from county residents to supply $10 gift cards to purchase turkeys. When the organization’s food supply for November arrived last Wednesday, the vouchers were nowhere to be found, Rainey said.

“This is completely heartbreaking, and I don’t know or understand what happened,” Rainey said. “This is the first time we’ve had to go without giving families a turkey in November. Hopefully, we’ll at least be able to give it to them for Christmas.”

The agency has enough donations to supply turkeys to roughly half of the food bank recipients. It expected to receive enough vouchers from the Greater Pittsburgh Food Bank to provide a bird for the rest.

“We’re going to have to wait until December to give turkeys out to everyone,” Rainey said. “We can’t just pick and choose who gets turkeys in November, so we have to wait to give them to everyone all at once.”

A food bank recipient from Ford City, who asked not to be identified, said she is out of work because of an injury and was counting on the turkey to provide a holiday meal for her husband, two kids and grandson.

“We’re hurting so bad. Now we don’t even have a turkey, and I have no idea how or if we’ll be able to get one,” she said.

The 70 families who came through the New Valley Presbyterian Church’s Rural Valley food pantry were disappointed to learn they weren’t getting turkey vouchers, said volunteer Diana Firment.

“These people really look forward to it,” she said “It was really disappointing not to be able to give them their vouchers. Most of them understood, but it’s just heartbreaking.”

After families realized they didn’t receive turkey vouchers through the food bank, several people called the Kittanning Salvation Army for help but had to be turned away, said Lt. Amber Imhoff.

The Salvation Army supplies turkeys to families struggling financially but do not have a low enough income to qualify for the food bank’s services, Imhoff said. Several months ago, Imhoff contacted the agency to review who would be receiving vouchers, so the Salvation Army could get enough turkeys for others in need.

The organization plans to give out about 200 turkeys.

“We’re really torn, because we have just enough turkeys for the people we planned to serve before we knew the vouchers weren’t coming through for the food bank families,” Imhoff said. “For us to go back this late in the game and raise enough money to provide over 1,000 families with a turkey would be nearly impossible.”

Brad Pedersen is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-543-1303, ext. 1337, or [email protected].


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