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  • History

    2013 and beyond: Strength to Meet Future Challenges – Having passed a 25-year milestone, Just Harvest’s 2012 strategic plan re-emphasizes:

    • our founding commitment to grassroots organizing;
    • combining service – connecting people to safety net benefits – with policy advocacy, community education, and the empowerment of people in poverty;
    • communicating our message and mission more powerfully than ever.

    A strong and growing team of our board, staff, interns, volunteers, members, and allies is moving forward on both old and new challenges at all levels of policymaking as we continue to Sow the Seeds of Economic Justice.

    2007-2012: Expansion, Transitions, and Looking Forward – These years marked a new period of growth and change for Just Harvest. With funding from the PA Department of Public Welfare, we launched a major food stamp outreach and enrollment assistance program. By the close of 2012, we had prepared and submitted more than 6,000 food stamp applications for people in need. We became a partner agency of the United Way of Allegheny County; promoted voter participation among thousands of low-income Allegheny County residents in the 2008, 2010, and 2012 elections; and played an active role in the development of the Pittsburgh Food Policy Council and the Southwestern PA Food Security Partnership. Long-time codirector Joni Rabinowitz retired, our tax assistance program grew to four countywide locations, and Just Harvest completed a new strategic plan to point the way to future growth and effectiveness.

    2001-2006: A Time of Growth – In 2003 we launched a free tax preparation service for low-income people, which grew to serve more than 1,500 people each year by 2006. We published the Welfare Rights Handbook and helped organize the Farmer’s Market Alliance. Locally, we organized a forum for mayoral candidates in 2005; that year all five candidates pledged to work to end poverty. At the state level, we helped win a liberalized policy about education and training from the Department of Welfare. In 2002 Just Harvest won its third Victory Against Hunger Award from the Congressional Hunger Center, and moved into offices at 16 Terminal Way on Pittsburgh’s Southside.

    1996-2000: Continued Innovation – Our advocacy victories included: the reopening of a WIC office in Duquesne, PA and the ability to use County anti-hunger funds for direct food purchases by food banks. New programs included the launch of the Welfare Justice Project (to mobilize welfare recipients and supporters to advocate for just welfare policy) and the Women’s Leadership and Organizing Project (to train low-income women in advocacy and leadership skills). Other successes included: Through a Glass Darkly, an original play about navigating the welfare system (partnering with City Theatre); a new (and continuing) fundraising partnership with Bruce Springsteen; and the launch of the Southwestern Pennsylvania Food System Council.

    1991-1995: A Powerful Voice – Just Harvest wins both the Harry Chapin Food Self-Reliance Award and the Pennsylvania Public Health Association’s Rodale Award for Health Promotion. In 1994, following two years of field research, Just Harvest released Hometown Hunger: the most comprehensive study ever done on childhood hunger in Allegheny County. Our advocacy victories, together with our partners, included blocking legislation that would have cut off 160,000 of the poorest Pennsylvanians from welfare and medical assistance. We launched a new Summer Food Outreach Campaign to help hundreds of low-income families find summer food sites for their children and the Real Life Civics program to teach public policy and advocacy skills to high school students.

    1986-1990: The Founding Years – Our advocacy work achieves many victories, including: new School Breakfast Programs in Pittsburgh, Highlands, Woodland Hills, West Mifflin, and Sto-Rox school districts; the first-ever commitment of $150,000 for emergency food assistance programs from the City of Pittsburgh; the creation of City of Pittsburgh Food Policy Commission to address the problems of supermarket abandonment of inner-city communities; and a commitment of $280,000 for food pantries and soup kitchens from Allegheny County Commissioners. The fruits of these early victories put Just Harvest on the map and created changes that are still being felt in the community today.

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