2010 – This year brings a major change to Just Harvest’s leadership, as founding Co-Director Joni Rabinowitz retires, with Tara Marks (a former client of Just Harvest) assuming the role of Public Policy Co-Director. Additional change comes with the hire of a communications coordinator to manage public relations and outreach. Just Harvest enters a partnership with the United Way of Allegheny County, who helps us to engage in ongoing outreach for our tax preparation and food stamp application assistance services. This year, our free tax preparation program helps to reclaim nearly $5 million in total federal and state refunds for 2,220 households. On the service front, we close the year out with a total of 1,720 applications for SNAP/Food Stamps, a figure reflective of the need for stronger safety net programs as the recession continues to affect working families.
2009 - Our direct service programs continue to break records, helping low income people in Allegheny County who face difficult economic times. We processed over 500 food stamp applications in the year's first 6 months, more than double the previous year. Our free tax preparation program brought a record $3 million back to low-income people in refunds.
2008 - Our advocacy efforts paid off with improvements in Food Stamp benefits at the national level and school food programs at the local level. The election season brought new vitality to our mobilization efforts, as our Just Vote campaign reached thousands of low-income voters.
2007 - After two years of advocacy by Just Harvest and community members, the McKees Rocks WIC office was reopened. We launched the Food Stamps Make a Difference program to help low-income people apply for benefits. A partnership with the Department of Public Welfare, the program brings us into relationships with new clients, and opens up additional avenues for client advocacy.
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.