Donations Pile Up for Christmas in July

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WILKES-BARRE -- The holidays are still months away, but on Tuesday a food bank in Wilkes-Barre received plenty of gifts.

The Weinberg Food Bank and the United Way of Wyoming Valley held the annual Christmas in July food drive, bringing in more than 40,000 pounds of food, and Newswatch 16 found budget cuts left the food bank needing these donations more than ever.

Typically food banks receive donations during the holidays, but on this hot July day, the Weinberg Food Bank in Wilkes-Barre accepted thousands of pounds of food.

"The food banks really struggle during the summer months. You know everyone thinks, like, during Christmas and Thanksgiving, a lot of drives going on. But in the summer, a lot of people forget about it and the pantry shelves get pretty bare," said John Winslow, of the United Way of Wyoming Valley.

That's why the Food Bank and United Way of Wyoming Valley hosted its annual Christmas in July Food Drive.

Sixteen area companies dropped off the food in a competition to see who makes the biggest donation, but the annual drive takes on added meaning this year.

Director Rich Kutz says Pennsylvania cut its state food purchase program this year, meaning less state money for food banks.

"That is probably one of the largest funding sources for all the pantries in every county in the state of Pennsylvania. So that's one of the biggest challenges that we have," said Kutz.

Kutz says he doesn't know how much the Weinberg Food Bank will lose, but this drive should help fill the gap.

At the end of the day, everything will be sorted out and tallied up to determine which companies donated the most food, but those who dropped off donations say it's the food bank that's the real winner.

"In the middle of the summer when people's minds kind of drift away from that, it's good to bring it back to the forefront and remind them that this is something that's needed year round," said Susan Turcmanovich, of Pennsylvania American Water.

To keep the number growing, they'll continue accepting food and monetary donations Wednesday.

The United Way is still tallying up the final numbers and will know by Wednesday which company made the biggest donation to the food bank drive in Wilkes-Barre.