Monthly Archives: May 2017

Trying New Foods with Taste It! & Eat Fresh

Trying new foods can be intimidating for adults and children alike. After all, wariness about unfamiliar foods is one way our brain balances our innate sense of curiosity as humans. Without that little voice that says Wait, are you really sure you want to eat that green thing? we’d run a much higher risk of ingesting harmful or toxic substances.

However, this same instinct can create a big roadblock when it comes to people, especially kids, branching out from their comfort zone and trying vegetables, grains and other nutritious foods that they’ve never had before. Repeat exposure helps new things seem less peculiar and increases the chances that someone might try something they once turned down. And if those new foods are paired with more recognizable ingredients, all the better. Beets, for example, might seem less “weird” if when they’re roasted, sauced with a tasty dressing and tossed with tangy, salty feta cheese. This is the impetus behind CCFB’s, Taste It! & Eat Fresh.

Taste It! has been part of Chester County Food Bank’s outreach programming for the past three years. The food demonstrations, offered as a facet of the Food Bank’s Food Security programming, allow people an opportunity to try foods they might not otherwise consider. When we receive an abundance of a specific vegetable, such as kale, a Taste It! volunteer will search through our recipe database, prepare a delicious dish and offer small samples to pantry clients and customers at our Fresh2You Mobile Market. The proof of a successful Taste It! demo is when we see people adding fruits and vegetables that they’ve just sampled to their baskets.

Volunteers are at the core of Taste It! The CCFB staff trains volunteers on not only basic food safety and presentation skills, but also gives tips on client engagement. Volunteers are then able to prepare nutritious recipe samples and share basic information about how to cook healthy food on a limited budget.  If you’re interested, please find more information and volunteer application here.

Eat Fresh is a series of cooking and nutrition classes that CCFB, in partnership with local community organizations, offers to provide youth and adults at risk for food insecurity with the tools and confidence to choose and cook healthy food for themselves and their families. Over the course of six weeks, each Eat Fresh participant practices hands-on cooking skills, learns how to select, decode and understand healthy recipes, and becomes acquainted with a range of fresh produce, whole grains and other healthy staples. To keep the momentum up at home, participants are welcome to take home the fresh fruits and veggies featured in class after each session.

We can see concrete evidence through Eat Fresh that when people are exposed to new foods and given the tools to cook simple, nutritious foods, they feel empowered to take a chance and discover all kinds of new foods.

The Chester County Food Bank is the central hunger relief organization serving more than 120 food cupboards, meal sites and social service organizations throughout Chester County. We mobilize our community to ensure access to real, healthy food.

Emily Kovach

Photos: Ed Williams

Cupboard to Client: The Journey of Food from the CCFB to Those in Need

For food to get into the hands of our neighbors and community members who need it most, it must go on a journey. Just how does food travel to the Chester County Food Bank and then on to local food cupboards and into the hands of individuals who take it home? Here’s a sneak peek into the process:

  • Then, we organize the food. The CCFB is a relatively large organization, and we’re able to carefully manage the fresh produce, frozen foods and other items that pass through our doors. All of the food that comes through our system is weighed and entered into our inventory software system. The food is then stored in our warehouse and in our large refrigerator and freezer units.

We’ve spent the last seven and a half years building and honing the sophisticated food intake and storage capacity that we currently have in our 36,000-square-foot facility. And we’re growing! In the next few years, we will be increasing our refrigeration and freezer space so we can accept more fresh produce and more locally sourced dairy, poultry and meats.

  • The food is safely stored in our warehouse until our network of over 150 nonprofits, schools, senior centers and other organizations and agencies are ready to receive items. Distributions are made directly or through one of CCFB’s programs, such as our Weekend Backpack Program, Meals on Wheels, and our Summer Food Boxes. While the food is held in storage, our staff is constantly strategizing how to maximize the use and potential of each type of food.

For example: We receive funding from the State Food Purchase Program, a government grant through which we can purchase fresh produce, frozen meats, non-perishables and other items. We can use those funds to purchase more expensive foods that cupboards may not normally have, like shelf-stable milk, which can last on a pantry shelf for up to a year, is easy to transport and store and adds important nutrition to a family’s diet. We can use that grant money to ensure that any family that comes to one of the food cupboards can take home milk every time they visit.

  • We distribute the food. Each month, we send all of the agencies we work with a list of available foods and they choose what they’d like. Larger food cupboards may want items that enhance what they already have on shelves, while other smaller operations may depend entirely on the Chester County Food Bank. The food is then packed up and delivered to those locations in our three refrigerated box trucks.
  • Each agency or cupboard keeps their own lists of clients, who choose the location they’d like to visit based on their school districts. There are 14 school districts in Chester County and we ensure that there is at least one food cupboard in each district, and food security initiatives help clients know where to go. We work with a network of guidance counselors, senior centers, youth centers, county youth and family services, therapists, local churches, medical clinics and religious organizations who all can assist our neighbors in need know who’s open and who they can call. Our website also features a responsive map function that allows anyone to search for a nearby food cupboard, even from a library computer or pay-as-you-go phone. Each agency sets its own pick-up hours for their clients, who then take the food home to enjoy well-rounded meals all week or month long.

The glue that holds this whole system together—the guides for the food’s journey from cupboard to client—is volunteers. For both the Chester County Food Bank and our community partner agencies, it’s largely volunteer power that helps get food into the hands of the nearly 50,000 people who we provide food for each year. Without a doubt, volunteers are the real heroes with their boots on the ground, making sure that food cupboard doors are unlocked, taking deliveries, attending meetings and so much more. We are so grateful for our own volunteers, who help inspect, process and repack food for our programs, as well as the huge network of volunteers at local food pantries and cupboards. If it wasn’t for them, food would never be able to travel from cupboard to client, and many of our neighbors and community members would go hungry.

Want to learn moreSign up for our newsletter and stay connected. You can also donate foodfunds and time to help us achieve our mission. Call (610) 873-6000 to speak to someone about getting involved or requesting a tour. Thanks to you, we’re growing a healthier community.

The Chester County Food Bank is the central hunger relief organization serving more than 120 food cupboards, meal sites and social service organizations throughout Chester County. We mobilize our community to ensure access to real, healthy food.

Emily Kovach

The Inspirational Legacy of Our Friend, Elmer Duckinfield

The sun seems a bit less bright today at the Chester County Food Bank as we mourn the passing of one of our early and distinguished pioneers. Elmer Duckinfield lost his brave and quiet battle with cancer on May 6, 2017, surrounded by his beloved family. Our hearts are broken; however, our spirits remain touched (and, dare we say, our lives changed) by a man who was the definition of compassion, enthusiasm and humility with his warm smile, soft-spoken voice and contagious way of inspiring us to become better citizens.

Twenty years ago, Elmer envisioned a need to “glean” local farms of excess produce while it was still on the vine or on the ground, and then to distribute fresh food to those in the local communities who needed it most. He selflessly compiled lists of available volunteers in the area and coordinated volunteer drives to take advantage of gathering the produce surplus. It was no surprise to find Elmer in the fields packing and loading up the goods until nightfall. We shared Elmer’s story of inspiration earlier this year and believe that you, too, will find it hard not to be touched by his love of giving back.

Phoebe Kitson-Davis, director of agency and community partnerships for the Food Bank, conveys, “Elmer held the title of ‘gleaning manager’ (a volunteer position) when he began the gleaning efforts in the county in conjunction with then-Commissioner (now state Senator) Andy Dinniman. This is a tremendous loss for all of us, but Elmer would want us to carry on—to continue to help those in need and work together to make Chester County a great place to live for everyone. He truly believed no one should ever go hungry. We vow to carry on his legacy.”

As part of a loving tribute to Elmer, why not join us with a donation in his honor to the Chester County Food Bank? Let his influential spirit and charitable philosophy live on and continue to make our community a better place. We collectively thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

The Chester County Food Bank is the central hunger relief organization serving more than 120 food cupboards, meal sites and social service organizations throughout Chester County. We mobilize our community to ensure access to real, healthy food. 

Ed Williams

Photos: Ed Williams

Feed Our Neighbors: Volunteer on a Farm

Chester County is home to a bounty of fertile farmland—nearly 165,000 acres, according to the 2012 U.S. Census of Agriculture—and here at the Chester County Food Bank, we don’t take that incredible resource for granted. We’re proud to have two local farm partners: Pete’s Produce Farm in West Chester and Springton Manor Farm in Glenmoore. Both of these farms are generous enough to donate acreage to the CCFB and allow us to grow our own produce there.

On seven acres at Pete’s and one acre at Springton, we’re able to grow a large quantity of a limited variety of crops. Throughout the growing season—which runs from May until November each year—we’ll see kale, collard greens, cabbage, broccoli, lettuce, onions, garlic, tomatillos, sweet and hot peppers, tomatoes and herbs all coming from our fields! All of this nourishing, locally grown food adds up over the months—we harvest over 200,000 pounds of produce each year, all of which goes to local families and neighbors in need through our partner hunger relief agencies.

How do we implement such a significant program? Through the help of our amazing volunteers! Each season, we rely on over 1,000 volunteers to get outside to plant, maintain and harvest our nutrient-dense crops. Volunteering with our farm partners is a wonderful way to get to the roots of food insecurity, and there’s nothing quite so rewarding as spending a few hours out on the farm and seeing the impact of your hard work. If you’ve got an afternoon or a few weekends to spare this spring or summer, we encourage you to come out to the fields with us and get your hands dirty in the best way!

A few more facts about our on-site farm volunteer opportunities:

  • We average 15 volunteers each day during the height of the season, splitting time between a.m. and p.m. shifts.
  • Our need is greatest in late August and early September, when students return to school.
  • Volunteering with us is simple: if you’re interested, check out our online calendar, create a profile and sign up for any workdays that fit your schedule!
  • There’s no obligation or ongoing commitment to volunteer. Of course, we love when volunteers come out on a regular basis, but it’s fine if you can only sign up for one day.
  • If, for some reason, you’re unable to attend a workday that you signed up for, we only ask that you cancel with plenty of advance notice (at least 48 hours).
  • To schedule a group workday (five or more individuals), email volunteer@chestercountyfoodbank.org with three potential dates.

To get started with creating an account, looking at our volunteer schedule or signing up to work at one of the beautiful farms, head over to our volunteer site.

Want to learn more? Sign up for our newsletter and stay connected. You can also donate foodfunds and time to help us achieve our mission. Call (610) 873-6000 to speak to someone about getting involved or request a tour. Thanks to you, we’re growing a healthier community.

The Chester County Food Bank is the central hunger relief organization serving more than 120 food cupboards, meal sites and social service organizations throughout Chester County. We mobilize our community to ensure access to real, healthy food.

Emily Kovach

Meet Our Community Partner: Great Valley Food Cupboard

At the Chester County Food Bank, we’re proud to partner with a number of like-minded organizations around our region, whose missions align with ours.

One such partner is the Great Valley Food Cupboard (GVFC), in Devon. Since 2012, this community-oriented food pantry has made it its mission to help families fill their refrigerators and kitchen shelves with extra food each month. Its tagline is “Compassion in Action,” which is visible each week as it opens its doors to neighbors from surrounding communities. All those who visit the Great Valley Food Cupboard are treated with dignity and respect, and their needs are met with care that’s free of judgment.

Run by a volunteer staff, the GVFC is open each Tuesday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., and the second Wednesday of each month from 6 to 8 p.m. During these hours, residents from the Tredyffrin Easttown School District and Great Valley School District are welcome to come to the cupboard, located in the Education Building of The Baptist Church in the Great Valley at 945 N. Valley Forge Rd. in Devon. GVFC serves more than 250 individuals every month.

Many food cupboards can only offer canned, dried and other nonperishable goods to their guests, but thanks to the partnership with Chester County Food Bank, the Great Valley Food Cupboard is also able to offer fresh fruit and vegetables. According to Carol Claypoole, a church volunteer who runs the food cupboard, clients really appreciate the variety and quality of the food they receive.

“It’s rewarding to see the relief on people’s faces when they receive their groceries,” she said. “Hearing, ‘You made this so easy!’ is always such a great feeling.”

This spring and summer, the staff at the Great Valley Food Cupboard is looking forward to providing produce to clients from the gardens at the church. It is one of the sites for the Chester County Food Bank’s Raised Bed Garden Program, and the food grown on-site adds a seasonal bounty to the offerings. Carol says, “The raised bed gardens are such a win-win experience for everyone … the folks who grow the gardens are proud to help and the folks that receive the food are so grateful.”

Any families who live in the Great Valley area who are in need of support and would like details on signing up for the Great Valley Food Cupboard should call the church’s office at 610-688-5445. The same number should be used for anyone interested in volunteering, as well.

Want to learn more about the Chester County Food Bank? Sign up for our newsletter and stay connected. You can also donate food, funds and time to help us achieve our mission. Call 610-873-6000 to speak to someone about getting involved or requesting a tour. Thanks to you, we’re growing a healthier community.

The Chester County Food Bank is the central hunger relief organization serving more than 120 food cupboards, meal sites and social service organizations throughout Chester County. We mobilize the community to ensure access to real, healthy food.

Emily Kovach