Monthly Archives: July 2017

Water Garden Tour Benefits Food Bank (July 29-30)

One of the more unique events of the summer in Chester County is right around the corner, as the Brandywine Valley Water Garden Weekend Tour is slated for July 29-30.

The origins of the event can be traced back 12 years prior, when a group of approximately 30 pond enthusiasts gathered to use their interest in the elaborate water gardens built by Coatesville-based Turpin Landscaping as a vehicle for philanthropy.

“It started as a small group who wanted to give something back to the community,” said Sarah Turpin, who co-owns Turpin Landscaping with her husband Jason, whom customers often refer to as an aquatic artist. “This year, we expect to have about 400 people.”

Self-guided tours are $45, while bus-guided tours are $65. Tickets can be purchased by clicking here.

The tour includes 40 different ponds, all of which Turpin Landscaping has worked on, and a country barbecue, live music, and auction.

In 2009, upon the suggestion of Sen. Andy Dinniman, the Tour directed its efforts to supporting the Chester County Food Bank.

“The Food Bank’s mission of providing food to those in need right here in our community blended well with the Brandywine Valley Water Garden Tour Committee’s desire to give back to the local community,” said Sarah Turpin.

The Tour Committee has raised more than $97,000 for the Food Bank over the last seven years.

“The Water Garden Tour and Turpin Landscaping were one of the first contributors to the Food Bank when we started in November 2009,” said Larry Welsch, Executive Director of the Chester County Food Bank. “From the team at Turpin, to the Tour Committee members, to all of the garden hosts, this event is truly a community coming together to help those struggling with food insecurity in Chester County.”

One $45 ticket to the Tour will provide 17 meals through the Food Bank.

“We are so very grateful and honored to be the beneficiary,” said Welsch.

The Tour offers the opportunity to visit the homes of local residents who have created beautiful waterscapes in their backyards. Included in the Tour are self-contained ponds with streams and water features ranging in size from small to expansive, as well as waterfalls without visible ponds. Beautiful landscaping, colorful flowers, arrays of dazzling waterfalls, and friendly fish of all colors, shapes, and sizes await those who visit just a few of the many homes featured on the Tour.

On Saturday evening, all the tour participants, along with all the homeowners who have opened their yards and water features in support of the event, are invited to gather at Turpin Landscaping on Martins Corner Road for the barbecue and silent auction.

From sun to shade, from flat to hilly terrains, ponds can be situated practically anywhere. The Turpins certainly love a challenge, as evidenced by some of the properties highlighted on the Tour.

“We do everything for the outdoor lifestyle,” said Sarah Turpin. “Everything from ponds to outdoor kitchens, patios, decks, and pizza ovens. But ponds are certainly a big part of our business.”

A Healthy Dose: Introducing the Fresh2You Fruit & Vegetable Prescription (FVRx) Program

They say laughter is the best medicine, but at the Chester County Food Bank, we believe nutritious food is a close contender. Fresh produce does a world of good for bodies young and old, but not everyone has access to fruits and vegetables. Our Fresh2You Mobile Market, which opened for the season on June 13, seeks to address that issue by bringing a produce-market-on-wheels to various locations throughout Chester County. We’ve seen a lot of success from this program (which is generously supported by QVC) and have gotten lots of positive feedback from residents in various neighborhoods who otherwise find it difficult to locate and purchase affordable fresh produce.

This year, we’re taking this idea a step further with our pilot Fresh2You Fruit & Vegetable Prescription (FVRx) program. This innovative initiative is in partnership with The Clinic in Phoenixville, a nonprofit health care facility whose mission is to “provide quality health care to the uninsured in an atmosphere which fosters dignity and respect for our patients.” FVRx is partially funded through a grant provided by the Chester County Health Department, and also in part by the Chester County Food Bank.

The goal of the FVRx Program is to address the adverse effects that food insecurity has on health. The program will do this by offering doctors and their patients the opportunity to discuss nutrition, and give patients the tools necessary to establish great dietary habits and practices. We are aiming to increase access to and consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables for patients of The Clinic, and to improve the overall well-being and food security of program participants.

At present, The Clinic has enrolled about 75 patients into the program; each participant is given a real “prescription” for Veggie Bucks, which are vouchers that can then be used to purchase fruits and vegetables at the Fresh2You Mobile Market, which parks outside of The Clinic on Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. The prescription is renewed each week the participant shops at the market.

Because we know that knowledge is power, and that not everyone knows what to do with a head of cauliflower or a bunch of mustard greens, the Fresh2You staff, including a number of volunteers, holds interactive recipe demonstrations at each market location including The Clinic. Every week, a new recipe is featured to highlight a seasonal vegetable. Volunteers cook and offer samples of the recipe at the market, and customers (including all FVRx participant shoppers) are welcome to take the recipe home. At the market, we sell the ingredients in a handy “Recipe Bundle” for just $5.

If you’re a patient at The Clinic, be sure to ask your care provider about enrolling in the FVRx program. To find out where the Fresh2You Mobile Market will be this summer, take a look at our weekly schedule. We hope to keep the residents of Chester County eating great seasonal produce all summer long!

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

Photos: Chester County Food Bank

What Is Food Insecurity?

A fully stocked fridge after a trip to the grocery store; a farmer’s market bag stuffed with leafy greens and plump tomatoes; a fruit bowl, spilling over with sweet, ripening fruit: the sensation of abundance is a basic human pleasure. But for so many of our neighbors—more than 50,000 in fact, including 18,000-plus children—this is a feeling they rarely enjoy.

Instead of food wealth, their experience is food insecurity. At Chester County Food Bank, we broadly define food insecurity as “a household that is without reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable and nutritious food at any given time.” Though Chester County is the wealthiest county in Pennsylvania, this remains a serious issue for many of our residents.

Food insecurity lies at the heart of CCFB’s mission to mobilize our community to ensure access to real, healthy food. There are numerous reasons why a family may experience food insecurity, either for a few tight months or for years at a time. This situation may be related to unexpected unemployment, a sudden health crisis or disability, or simply a struggle to make ends meet. As of the 2015 American Community Survey, Chester County has 7.1 percent of the population living below the federal poverty level, or approximately 35,000 people. Each family’s complex scenario is the driving force behind our diverse programs.

From Meals on Wheels meal preparation and distribution for seniors on fixed incomes, to our Summer Food Boxes that help bridge the gap for children who rely on free or reduced-price school meals to our Fresh2You Mobile Market, which brings affordable produce to areas where fresh food is scarce, each one of our programs is aimed at solving food insecurity in Chester County.

With the help of our amazing volunteers, committed Community Partners, supportive staff and generous donors, every day brings us one step closer to ensuring that no one in our communities lives with the uneasiness or fear of not knowing where their next meal is coming from.

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

Photos: Ed Williams

Feeding Chester County All Year Long: School’s Out (And So Are Lunch Programs)

The last day of school is a joyous occasion for most school-aged children: the summer stretches before them, seemingly infinite, full of leisure, adventure and fun. However, for 13,500 kids in Chester County, the end of school also means that they can no longer count on the free or reduced-price meals they receive from the National School Lunch Program and the National School Breakfast Program.

To help mitigate this sense of insecurity for these children and their families, the Chester County Food Bank has developed the Summer Food Box. Local families can qualify for this program through their local food cupboard, the local summer feeding program at their school or through their local church or youth center.

Once a month during July and August, we provide participants with shelf-stable and kid-friendly staples, like mac and cheese, oatmeal, applesauce, beans and milk. This summer, we anticipate giving out nearly 3,000 boxes to families via 18 locations in our communities. We’ll use any remaining boxes for Back to School Nights, evening ESL classes and other similar events where parents from lower-income families may be.

We rely on donations and volunteer power to make our Summer Food Box program as impactful as possible each summer. Please consider getting involved to help the Chester County Food Bank continue our mission to secure, manage and distribute food to those in need.

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 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

Top and third photos: BigStock; second and fourth photos: Chester County Food Bank

Meet the Team: Raina Ainslie, Raised Bed Garden Manager

Here at the Chester County Food Bank, we are so fortunate to have a dedicated, passionate and all-around incredible staff and team of volunteers. One of these folks, whose job is integral to our goal of distributing fresh produce (in addition to shelf stable goods) to our neighbors, is Raina Ainslie, the manager of our Raised Bed Garden Program.

This dynamic program, which we’ve been overseeing since 2009, organizes 110 growing sites around Chester County that cultivate and donate fruits and veggies back to us. These sites, which include churches, schools, senior centers and corporations, tend to their own raised-bed gardens. The bounty harvested from these dedicated volunteers counts for 33 percent of the fresh produce we distribute throughout the year.

Raina has been with us since 2014, and is tasked with working with our host sites to set up their gardens and then to empower their volunteers through educational support. This is no small feat, and under her guidance, our garden partners were able to donate a whopping 40,000 pounds of produce to our partner food cupboards and agencies in 2016. Will they be able to top that number this year? Under Raina’s careful, enthusiastic watch, we’re betting they can.

In the midst of one of her busiest times of year at the Chester County Food Bank, Raina kindly took a few minutes out of her day to chat with us about her role and responsibilities as Raised Bed Garden Manager.

What does your day-to-day entail?

I coordinate with our partner gardens to provide material support such as seeds and seedlings. I also grow produce at the demonstration garden at Springton Manor, assist new sites with building their garden beds, and lead educational workshops on gardening.

How does your job change as the seasons change?

Spring, from March through May, is the busiest time of year. We’re starting seedlings in the greenhouse, preparing the garden for planting, coordinating with partner gardens to pick up their supplies, and getting everything in the ground.

In summer, June through September, it’s all about harvesting crops, and re-planting beds.

During the fall season, October through December, we continue to harvest and prepare the beds for winter dormancy.

What’s a challenging part of your job?

Battling critters that want to eat your crops! For example: groundhogs.

What’s a super rewarding part of your job?

I love connecting with gardeners and hearing their stories.

What are you excited about as gardening season approaches?

I look forward to greenhouse work at the beginning of the season, and to harvesting the rest of the year.

Thank you, Raina, for all you do to make our Raised Bed Garden program such a success!

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 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

Our Partnership With Pete’s Produce Farm

Have you ever heard the saying: No farmers, no food? We’ve seen this cautionary adage in real life as we’ve deepened our relationships over the years with two local farms that help, in quite substantial ways, to provide fresh produce to the Chester County Food Bank. Because of our longstanding partnerships with local farmers, we’ve seen up close the energy, struggle and Herculean amount of perseverance it takes for smaller farms to thrive. And we’ve also witnessed the importance of these farms to their communities.

One such farm is Pete’s Produce Farm in West Chester. CCFB and farmer Pete Flynn have a history that goes back nearly 20 years. Pete actually began his career in agriculture in 1986 as a dairy farmer, and made the switch to produce farming in 1989. Soon after, Pete generously began participating in the Gleaning Program (the predecessor to our Local Farm Partnership programs) by calling volunteers to come gather crops that were ripening too quickly in the fields for him to harvest and sell. The problem was that often, the volunteers wouldn’t be able to make it out until the weekend, but the produce needed to be picked immediately.

“I thought, ‘What if I take a two-acre lot and grow specifically for them, so they could schedule volunteers at the appropriate time and pick and distribute the produce at its peak?’” Pete remembers. That is just what he did. Currently, Pete has allocated five acres of his nearly 200-acre farm to the CCFB, which are managed by our on-staff farmers. We grow tomatoes, sweet and hot peppers, kale and collard greens, cabbage, sweet corn, and other seasonal fruits and veggies.

The harvests from this plot are a huge contribution to our mission to provide nutritious food to local families and neighbors in need through our partner hunger relief agencies.

Pete is also the vice chair of the CCFB’s Board of Directors, and meets with program coordinators each winter to plan crops to grow the following spring. This channel of communication has helped the program to evolve and improve. For instance, although August isn’t typically thought of as a big planting season, at our plot at Pete’s Produce Farm, we sow copious fall crops at the end of the summer, which keeps our volunteers picking fresh veggies until nearly Christmas!

In addition to enjoying the exposure and community connection that this program facilitates, Pete says he feels good about helping people get access to the fresh fruits and veggies that are so essential to a balanced, healthy diet. “It’s so hard to get people fed with healthy food. Non-nutritious food is easy to come by in this country but to get good, nutritious food to people who need it the most … it makes you feel like you’re doing something,” he says.

For locals interested in supporting Pete’s, the farm’s shop at 1225 E. Street Rd. is open every day from April through November, and is stocked with fresh produce, as well as locally made jams, honey and other goods. For more info on how to volunteer for our Local Farm Programs, head 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