At the Chester County Food Bank, we procure food for our community partners in a number of ways. Some items come from generous donations from our supporters, while others from food drives. But we buy a lot of food, too—in fact, 42% of our food inventory comes from the food we purchase using money from grants, donations and virtual food drives. It’s with those dollars that we can harness our buying power and stretch those funds to an amazing extent.
How do we do this? We have a number of different avenues that we pursue to take each dollar further:
- Farmers: Over the last three years, we’ve developed relationships with local farmers, and we meet with them at the beginning of each season while they plan what they’re going to grow. Because of these connections, we can forecast what we’re looking for in terms of variety and quantity of fresh produce, and then buy in bulk from them at discounted prices.
- Wholesalers: Through our relationship with Philabundance, which began in 2016, we’re able to get great leads on especially good wholesale deals on food. Often, folks from Philabundance will be at a produce market, see something on sale and call us to ask if we’re interested. Wholesalers generously donate some food, which helps us offset the cost of more expensive items. For example, if we purchase apples at 70 cents per pound and can get a matching quantity donated, it’s as if we’ve purchased all of the apples for just 35 cents per pound.
- Produce auctions: This is how we obtain most of our fresh produce. On Tuesday and Thursday mornings, you can find us at the Leola Produce Auction, scouting out the best deals on fruits and veggies. Amish and Mennonite farmers bring carts and truckloads of produce and auctioneers sell them off to a crowd of 50 or more buyers. Denise Sheehan, Director of Strategic Initiatives, notes how much cheaper the prices are at these auctions versus a regular market, recalling a particularly unique situation last summer: “I called every food bank I could remember the number for, because cantaloupes were selling for $2 a bin, and there are probably 150 pieces in each bin!” Denise has also established friendly relationships with some of the farmers at the auctions, and can often negotiate purchasing items from them that aren’t even on the auction block.
To stretch funds even further, Denise and our colleagues are constantly forming informal cooperatives with other food banks, because when many food banks band together and buy a truckload of an item, it’s that much cheaper. In these creative, economically efficient ways, CCFB’s buying power keeps growing exponentially more each year.
Want to learn more? 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 our community to ensure access to real, healthy food.