Free lunches are available to pick up three days a week at 35 school bus stops throughout Penn Hills.
The initiative grew out of an existing effort to get food to people in need during the coronavirus pandemic, said Jace Ransom, a Penn Hills-based community outreach specialist for the Allegheny County Department of Human Services.
Ransom said the collective of organizations has delivered approximately 79,000 meals throughout the municipality since the end of March.
“So the bus stop effort came out of conversations we had in regard to how can we get the biggest bang for our buck related to getting food out to people,” he said.
Ransom said research by a team of Carnegie Mellon University students helped the group select five school bus routes for distribution. Each route has seven stops, where an “ACCESS” van stops and waits for 15 minutes. Each stop is marked with a sign that reads “Food Distribution Center” with what time to expect a van.
The school bus delivery method began July 1. A total of 1,293 lunches were delivered within the first week, Ransom said.
Greg Ikper, an ACCESS driver with East Liberty’s PRN Health Service, said he has been driving with the company for 16 years. Typically, he picks up seniors with disabilities to take them where they need to go. This is the first time he has delivered food.
He doesn’t mind the change. In fact, he relishes it.
“This is just my opinion, but the greatness of a country is defined by how it’s able to provide for those less privileged,” Ikper said between handing out the brown-bag lunches. Each bag contained a sandwich, chips, fruits and vegetables. “So that’s why I enjoy this. I am able, through the company I work for, to provide a need to people who really need it.”
There are still several “Grab ’n Go” sites and food pantries spread throughout Penn Hills, Ransom said.
The United Way also has a 2-1-1 helpline that people can use to get the help they need.
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