Samantha Pritchard is new to Allegheny County, but she has already found a way to plug into the issues that matter most to her. The Lehigh Valley transplant found a job in the payroll and benefits department of ACTION-Housing, a Pittsburgh nonprofit in Pittsburgh that deals with housing assistance and neighborhood development.
ACTION-Housing has programs for homeless family assistance, weatherization, and mortgage counseling. They also develop housing for people typically least able to access it, like low-income residents, kids aging out of foster care, the elderly, and people with disabilities.
Now, thanks to an opening on our Board of Directors, Samantha will also be committing her time and her HR and finance expertise to Just Harvest’s mission.
How did you first hear about Just Harvest?
Samantha: I moved to the Pittsburgh area from just North of Philadelphia this past May and spent a good part of the summer familiarizing myself with the city and its surrounding areas. This is how I happened to find Just Harvest — by walking into the Market Square Farmers Market on a Thursday afternoon and discovering that people can now buy fresh vegetables with their Access Cards. I was impressed.
What do you like about Just Harvest’s approach to ending hunger?
Samantha: Growing up with food drives and soup kitchen volunteering, I was never really taught to look beyond the charitable aspect of hunger and poverty. While food drives are still very essential for the here and now, I’d like to put my energy into tackling the issue at the root, which is why I am very excited to contribute in every way I can to the mission and goals of Just Harvest.
I believe that hunger is a symptom of a much larger problem and Just Harvest is the first organization that I have seen to actively combat that big picture. The implementation of better social safety nets and the movements to take on the widening disparity of wealth in the United States are instrumental in ending poverty.
Why do you think there is so much opposition to social safety net programs and government solutions to problems like hunger?
Samantha: I think that resistance to these programs comes from a place of ignorance and misunderstanding. The purpose of these benefits is not to take care of people but rather to give them an opportunity to be able to take care of themselves, when they may have started out with less than the average person. Hunger can affect anyone and is intertwined with many other symptoms of poverty in the U.S. I think that understanding this is a very important first step in ending hunger.
What do you wish people knew about Just Harvest?
Samantha: Supporting an organization like Just Harvest not only reduces hunger in Allegheny County, but effectively aids in fighting the battle with climate change by supporting family farmers who sell produce generally grown using methods that minimize the impact on the earth. It also promotes growth for the local economy. The Fresh Access program helps with the fight against childhood and adult obesity by providing better, more affordable options and education on healthy eating.
What would you like to see Just Harvest accomplish during your term?
Samantha: I think this organization is extremely well thought out and put together and that each program it offers collectively helps those in need in the most direct and effective way possible. In the next few years, I would like to see Just Harvest move forward with their Fresh Corners initiative. A store in Downtown Pittsburgh would be extremely valuable and would give residents in this area a better option than CVS without losing the benefit of convenience.”