Monetary donations sought for United Way's Winter Food Drive

Staff reports
United Way of Franklin County's annual Winter Food Drive is for monetary donations only this year due to COVID-19.

United Way of Franklin County is once again coordinating its annual Winter Food Drive to help restock local food pantries after the busy holiday season. The food drive is being held virtually in the interest of public health as the community continues to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Now more than ever, the food drive is essential to help pantries meet the needs of our neighbors during the COVID-19 pandemic. More families in our communities find themselves in need of assistance, struggling to put food on the table because of increased financial stress,” said Amy Hicks, executive director of UWFC.

Local agencies have identified a dramatic increase in need for food since COVID-19 hit the U.S. In some cases, the need is so great the number of participants in food programs doubled in size. PA 211, the human services information and referral hotline, reported a 140% increase in food referrals during the first six months of the pandemic.

“While the need is greater and we want to ensure families are well fed, we also want to conduct the food drive as safely as possible to mitigate spread of the virus. By donating cash instead of cans, we can run a safe and efficient food drive while having an even greater impact. Food pantries can purchase more food at better prices than individuals at the grocery store, so every dollar will go further to feed more people in our community,” said Hicks.

Traditionally, UWFC’s Winter Food Drive collects non-expired, shelf-stable food donations at various local businesses and physically distributes them to food pantries. This year, in response to the pandemic, UWFC will collect only monetary donations. Funds will be distributed to more than a dozen pantries in Franklin and Fulton counties, divided based on the number of families served.

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By donating money to the Winter Food Drive, people will help local food pantries:

Buy food in bulk quantities at less-than-wholesale prices. In other words, a donor’s dollar goes way further to provide more food for families. The $1 spent on one can of green beans can provide up to six full meals through a monetary food drive.

Fill the gaps on their shelves to provide more nutritious options. One pantry may have 50 bags of rice, and another may have only five. The virtual food drive gives each pantry control to purchase food they need to offer variety for the families they serve.

Purchase perishables that can't be donated in traditional food drives such as bread, milk, eggs, and meats. Everyone donates a box of mac-and-cheese for drives, but what about the milk and butter that are needed to make the meal? These essential perishables help families complete any and every meal.

The Winter Food Drive kicked off on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Jan.18, a day to celebrate the iconic civil rights leader’s legacy. UWFC hopes to bring people together to serve others in the spirit of King’s vision of the "beloved community." A "beloved community," a term popularized by King during his life of activism, represents a community in which everyone is cared for, absent of poverty, hunger and hate. The drive continues through Feb. 8.

To contribute to the Winter Food Drive and help feed families in Franklin and Fulton counties, donate online at or mail a check to United Way of Franklin County, 182 S. Second St., Chambersburg, PA 17201 with “Winter Food Drive” written on the memo line.

“Dedicated, compassionate volunteers and staff at local pantries have been working in overdrive this entire pandemic to meet the increased need in our community. Let’s show them our support and help them nourish our neighbors,” said Hicks.