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Regional food bank receives funding for expansion, senator visits

Tom Riese
CEO Weinberg food bank director Mary Ellen Spellman gives Senator Bob Casey a tour of the facility in Jenkins Twp.

The food bank based in Jenkins Twp. serves thousands of families as well as community organizations that distribute items regionally.


On Tuesday, United States Senator Bob Casey met with local leaders fighting food insecurity to announce a boost in funding for the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Northeast Regional Food Bank.

The Jenkins Twp. food bank received $580,000 through American Rescue Plan funding and an additional $250,000 from the 2022 fiscal year spending bill.

Administration from the food bank said, with the help of 250 partners, they’re able to provide prepared meals and groceries to about 15,000 people each week.

With the money, the food bank will complete a nearly 15,000 square foot addition and a greenhouse to its warehouse at the CenterPoint East Commerce and Trade Park.

Sen. Casey spoke about the trials that families faced during the pandemic, especially regarding hunger.

“That will remain with us this winter,” said Casey. “We’ve got to be ready to combat hunger here in Luzerne County, all of northeastern Pennsylvania, across our commonwealth and across our country.”

Deborah Shurtleff with the Wyoming County Community Alliance said she and her husband distribute packages to families with donations from the food bank.

Her organization sprang up within weeks after the COVID-19 pandemic shut down most of the country. Shurtleff described how connecting with families in Wyoming County is a bonus in this type of volunteer work.

“I can tell you when we show up on the doorstep and those kids run out to see what’s in the car today… that’s what makes all of this worthwhile,” she said.

Mary Ellen Spellman is the director of the food bank, which is run by the Commission on Economic Opportunity (CEO). She said her organization is still working out the contracts for the warehouse expansion, but expects that bids will be out in March 2023. She hopes the expansion will begin as soon as next spring.

The Weinberg Northeast Regional Food Bank estimates that it distributed more than 19 million pounds of food and groceries in 2020, and with the expansion, that number could grow higher.

Tom Riese is a multimedia reporter and the local host for NPR's Morning Edition. He comes to NEPA by way of Philadelphia. He is a York County native who studied journalism at Temple University.