PITTSBURGH — Seventeen Pennsylvania National Guard members were activated by the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency on Thursday to support a food bank in Pittsburgh.

The soldiers, all members of the 128th Brigade Support Battalion, are assisting with the mass packing of emergency food boxes, large scale drive-up distributions and general operations at the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank.

The food bank has experienced a surge in need due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, said Brian Gulish, vice president of marketing and communications.

“In total, through our warehouse, we distributed one million more pounds of food in March 2020 than we did in March 2019,” Gulish said. “Additionally, we have had a 543% increase of people coming to the food bank directly for food. At the current time, our inventory is still strong, but that may change over the coming weeks.”

The guard members are part of Pennsylvania Task Force West, an emergency response support network that supports 24 western Pennsylvania counties. The task force consists of emergency management centers staffed with Pennsylvania National Guard service members.

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