A family receives food through their vehicle window outside the Great Bend United Methodist Church. (food pallet church) Caring Community Food Pantry co-directors Donna Cicon (left) and Bonnie Yeisley (center) look over some of the food delivered to the Great Bend United Methodist Church along with Pastor Ho Kang.
Just as the demand for food among Susquehanna County residents increases due to the COVID-19 outbreak and students being home from school, a monetary donation by Cabot Oil & Gas Corporation to the Weinberg Northeast Regional Food Bank has been a blessing to those in the Great Bend area.
“This is a big deal,” said Bonnie Yeisley, who has run the Caring Community Food Pantry at the Great Bend United Methodist Church with Donna Cicon for the past five or six years. “The Cabot grant will really go a long way right now helping people facing food insecurity.” Bonnie estimates that the $2,000 donation by Cabot will extend their offerings for at least another month.
A larger than normal number of families filed through the food bank on March 20, depleting the stores to some extent. But a new truckload of food supplies, sponsored by Cabot, arrived from the Weinberg Food Bank depot near Pittston on March 24.
This contribution is part of a larger pledge made by Cabot through the Neighborhood Assistance Program (NAP) to contribute $250,000 per year for the next five years. “By utilizing NAP and partnering with the Weinberg Food Bank, we’re able to support even more community corganizations that are fighting to end food security, said George Stark, director of external affairs at Cabot.
“We got a lot of really nice stuff,” Bonnie said of that day’s delivery. The shipment included cans of chicken and tuna, fresh fruit and vegetables, soup, canned and instant potatoes and boxed meals to mix with ground beef. She and Donna also appreciated not having to go to Pittston to pick up the food, as they are accustomed.
Another food pickup at the church was held on Friday, April 4. The substantial increase in food stores is especially important right now, Bonnie noted, because she doesn’t currently feel comfortable grocery shopping in lower New York State due to the health crisis, even though there are as of yet no travel restrictions.
Bonnie and Donna, who split the tasks of shopping and other managerial duties strive to provide enough food for the size for the family and a nutritionally-balanced allotment. Since they cannot currently allow recipients to come into the food bank and make their own selections, they are trying instead to give everyone similar food packages.
“Our program isn’t intended to keep them from going to buy their own food,” Bonnie maintained. Many families only come in when school is out, and at least 10 families new families came through on March 20. “They wouldn’t be there if they didn’t need food,” she remarked. “People aren’t going out. They are staying home.”
In addition to sanitizing surfaces and wearing gloves to assist people as they arrive, Bonnie explained that recipients are asked to remain in their vehicle. She said that employees at the Weinberg depot in Luzerne County also maintain a high level of cleanliness and food safety.
The Caring Community Food Pantry is one of two primary food distribution programs in upper Susquehanna County supported by the Weinberg Food Bank. Yeisley and her staff of volunteers provide commodities twice per month solely for residents in Great Bend and Hallstead. Their efforts are supplemented by other local businesses and Bonnie’s shopping trips. “Our pantry is truly a community effort,” she stated.
Another distribution on the fourth Tuesday of the month sponsored by the Weinberg Food Pantry – called the Truck Program – is extended to all nearby Susquehanna County residents who have preregistered by calling Bob Emerson at 570-879-4256. It is conducted at the Great Bend Fire Company.
Weinberg Northeast Regional Food Bank executive director Gene Brady noted that the agency has been working with folks in Great Bend for many years. “They have stepped up during the pandemic to continue the essential operation of providing for their community,” he said of the efforts of Yeisley, Cicon and others. “The funding for obtaining the food has been generously provided by Cabot, who is a key partner in helping to keep people fed during these difficult times.”
The process of getting food to pantries in Susquehanna County is a major undertaking at the Weinberg Northeast Regional Food Bank depot (above) at Pittston.