Lions Solve a Food Scarcity Problem

When the only grocery store for miles closed in the small town of Tionesta, Pa., residents found themselves in a food desert. It seems hard to believe on the banks of the Allegheny River, along the lush Allegheny National Forest, but getting healthy food meant driving to towns 30 to 45 minutes away on hilly two-lane roads where winter weather can only make things worse.

Tionesta Lions in Pennsylvania have helped their community through a food crisis.

Tionesta, population about 500, includes many elderly individuals who could not safely drive to the other towns. Although they could find a few items at the local Dollar General store, they had no way to get healthy foods like fresh fruits and vegetables when the grocery store closed.

Now, thanks to the Tionesta Lions, their groceries are brought to them.

Tionesta Lion Farley Wright, wanting to do something for his community, met with people from the Giant Eagle supermarket chain that owns stores in Pennsylvania, and he met with his club. Townspeople were hungry for a solution. Lions were eager to help.

By working hand-in-hand with the Tionesta Lions, Giant Eagle leadership began a pilot program called Curbside Express that now allows residents to get fresh groceries delivered to their town on Tuesday and Saturday mornings each week.

Online shoppers choose their items on the Giant Eagle website and pay online. Those without a home computer get help at the public library. Personal shoppers fill the orders at the store in Meadville, about 45 minutes away, and load them into a van. In Tionesta, a group of Lions are waiting for them at the Industrial Development Corporation, ready to unload the van and assist customers coming to get their groceries.

District Governor and Tionesta Lion Bernadette Holzer says it’s a service project that the club is happy to be able to do.

Although their small town has a pizza place, a Dollar General store, a post office and a bank, having fresh food is crucial.

Some shoppers were concerned there would be a problem getting good produce and other perishables, says Holzer. But the opposite has proven to be true. “The ice cream arrives frozen, the produce is the best, and the meats are fresh,” she says.

People are very thankful, says Holzer. “Thankful that they no longer have to make the drive for groceries, and thankful for the Lions who have supported our community in need.”