New initiative supports Oakland businesses and food bank with special gift card program | News | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

New initiative supports Oakland businesses and food bank with special gift card program

The Oakland Business Improvement District launched a gift card program that will provide financial relief to local restaurants, shops, and other establishments, and get food to those in need.

The program, called Shop2Help Oakland, promises that for every $25 spent on gift cards, 25 meals will be donated to the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank. As an added incentive, every $25 spent will equal $35 for gift card buyers, giving them a little extra to spend.

Participating Oakland businesses include restaurants like Pamela's Diner, Prince of India, Mario's Oakland Saloon, and Atarashi, The Milk Shake Factory, Fuku Tea, and Treats and Beans creperie. You can also purchase gift cards for Maggie & Stella's Card & Gifts, Hieber's Pharmacy, and the University of Pittsburgh gift shops.

The program addresses two of the most pressing issues brought on as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, as businesses have seen a significant drop in revenue and people have lost income due to being laid off or furloughed.

At the end of October, the Food Bank highlighted a new report from Feeding America that projected a nationwide 42% increase in food insecurity rates for the year 2020, including in Southwestern Pennsylvania. According to the Feeding America data, in 2018, food insecurity in the Food Bank’s 11-county service area was 10.8% (260,390 individuals), whereas the 2020 projection estimates a 15.4% food insecurity rate (369,450).

The data also foresees an increase in children going hungry in the region, jumping from 15.5% (71,620 individuals) in 2018 to 24.4% (112,630 individuals) in 2020.

“Since the onset of the pandemic we’ve seen a dramatic increase in demand for food,” says Food Bank president and CEO Lisa Scales in a press release. “We’ve anticipated and are preparing for this high level of need to be around for many months to come.”

Scales adds that, since the pandemic started back in the spring, the organization has already seen far more people coming to the Food Bank's Duquesne-based headquarters.

“Since March, we’ve served an average of 30 families a day, including more than 100 families daily during peak times in April and May,” says Scales. “We have more than 500 partners across our network in 11 counties, along with our drive-up distributions, home delivery service, and grab-and-go meals for kids. The increased outreach for food through those channels has been just as substantial.”

That need becomes more pronounced during holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas, times when big meals are an essential part of celebrating.

Shop2Help Oakland gift cards are available for a limited time, while supplies last.

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