One additional challenge many people are facing is the rise in grocery costs.By Chris Hoffman

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — With the holidays just around the corner, local food banks and pantries are preparing for an expected uptick in need.

Last year, the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank gave out 45 million meals. There is less of a need now, but it’s still 12 percent higher than before COVID-19 hit.

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“While we aren’t at the peak levels of where we were last spring and early summer, we are still elevated to where we were prior to when the pandemic began,” Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank Vice President of Marketing and Communications Brian Gulish said.

The food bank said it has plenty of supply right now, and it is hoping an increase in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program applications will help. The number of applications rose in the last two fiscal years from 1,800 to 3,400.

“They may not need to go to a pantry to come directly to the food bank. It is another resource that is available to individuals,” Gulish said.

Gulish said one additional challenge many people are facing is the rise in grocery costs.

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“Between that and the normal uptick, we do presume there will be some type of increase in need this holiday season,” Gulish said.

Meanwhile, at Pleasant Hills Middle School, everyone is doing their part to help supply a local church’s food pantry. The school’s food drive started Monday and runs through Nov. 13.

“You see all the places they are picking up foods. It’s needed everywhere,” teacher Kevin Gennaula said. “Everything they donate helps. They find uses for it down at the food bank.”

The school has done this for more than 20 years and said the community always comes through.

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“With the holidays, there is just a greater need for families. Any time we can serve that need, it’s a privilege for us,” teacher Bob Kerr said.