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Fishes and Loaves

A buying club helps solve the problem of living in a supermarket-less community

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The retreat of grocery stores from urban neighborhoods hit Hazelwood hard. Since community institution Dimperio's closed three years ago, Hazelwood has had no grocery at all.

Last June, churches and community groups created a locally unique solution. For a $20 one-time membership fee, Hazelwood residents can join the Fishes and Loaves Cooperative Ministries Buying Club, which makes fresh food accessible to folks hard-pressed to travel outside the neighborhood.

Twice monthly, at Hazelwood Christian Church, the club distributes pantry food items, fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables, and meat. Members pay before or after pickup. Purchasing is done in bulk to cut costs. Vendors include Mancini's Bakery (the loaves), Wholey's (the fishes) and even an Amish supplier (beans, apples and more).

The club also distributes to nonmembers at a senior high-rise, and offers budget cooking and nutrition classes, says Father Dan Walsh, of St. Stephen Catholic Church.

Other partners include Hazelwood Presbyterian Church. The Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh and Keystone Development provided grant money. Volunteers do the work.

The club has 30 members, of whom 10-15 order weekly, says Walsh. He says it will help members' health to have more access to food than "what you can get at the Rite Aid."

The club is fielding calls from other "food deserts" around the country, Walsh says.

Meanwhile, Loaves and Fishes has applied for governmental OK to accept food stamps. "We know that would double [participation]," says Walsh.

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