Monthly Archives: August 2017

A Fresh Partnership: Downingtown Farmers Market & Fresh2You

There’s nothing like wandering around a farmers’ market on a Saturday morning, perusing lovely heaps of product, chatting with farmers, vendors and neighbors, and soaking up the community vibes. It’s a pleasure enjoyed by lots of people, and yet remains inaccessible to so many. Access to farm-fresh food is at the heart of Chester County Food Bank’s mission, and is why we’re committed to our Fresh2You Mobile Market that brings produce to the people. It’s also why we’ve partnered with the Downingtown Farmers Market to offer an exciting new way to help lower-income neighbors combat food insecurity while gaining access to the wonderful world of farmers’ markets.

This year, Downingtown Farmers Market is the first and only farmers’ market in Chester County to accept EBT/SNAP (food stamps). That means that many of our community’s lower-income families are now able to shop directly from farmers for fruits and veggies, bread, dairy and more. We’re helping stretch those funds even further by offering an incentive program for EBT/SNAP shoppers. Every time an EBT/SNAP customer uses the card to make a SNAP approved purchase, he or she will be given Fresh2You Veggie Bucks, dollar for dollar, up to $10. Veggie Bucks can be used just like cash for future purchases of vegetables and fruit at the Downingtown Farmers Market. That means more gorgeous August corn and tomatoes, more September squashes and more October apples.

Lisa ONeill, the owner of Growing Roots Partners, the company that runs the Downingtown, Malvern and Eagleview Farmers’ Markets, says she’s been working for a year and a half to get the Downingtown Farmers Market approved for the EBT/SNAP program. The process required cutting through federal government red tape and applying for different grants for the equipment (iPads, card swipers and the apps). Finally, in June, thanks to the help of Lisa’s assistant Juliana Pash, the first few vendors began accepting the EBT/SNAP payments. Currently, produce, meat, dairy and bread vendors are set up with the payment system, and that list will expand in the coming months.

“Growing Roots Partners gets no money out of this,” Lisa said. “I just feel that farmers’ markets become an integral part of a community, and when a community has needs that we can address, I feel that’s our responsibility.”

Lisa explains that this relationship between Growing Roots Partner and the Chester County Food Bank has been strengthening for years. For the last four years, we’ve allowed the Eagleview Farmers Market to winter indoors in our warehouse from December through March.

To return the favor, Growing Roots Partners has given back to us: One year they did a one-ton spaghetti collection drive (they ended up collecting almost two tons!), and it’s now a tradition that they’ve brought a farmers’ market into our yearly open house events. Most recently, they held a fun family film screening at the Eagleview Farmers Market, the Ratatouille Hullabalooie, with proceeds donated to CCFB.

“This relationship is extremely strong … we’d love to continue to do that in other communities,” Lisa said. “We want to go into communities that have pockets of need and offer access to fresh produce, eggs, meat, you name it.”

We agree! The Downingtown Farmers Market, now in its sixth year, is such a great example of how farmers markets become an inextricable part of a community’s fabric. It’s a yearlong market that is held every Saturday morning in Kerr Park from 9 a.m.–1 p.m. and boasts dozens of vendors. Produce is on offer, of course, from locals like Frecon Farms and Old Homestead Farm, but there is so much more, too! Meat, dairy and eggs, sweets, treats, artisan pickles and vinegars and even dog treats are all available from local, independent vendors.

“Farmers markets cut out the middleman,” Lisa explained. “Farmers get fair prices for their food … it strengthens the whole community’s food system.”

Among the many weekly shoppers at the Downingtown Farmers Market is the town’s mayor, Josh Maxwell. “The Farmers Market has been a welcomed addition to the Downingtown community. Their partnership with the Chester County Food Bank further extenuates the Good Neighbor reputation we cherish,” he said.

Visit the Downingtown Farmers Market to enjoy all it has to offer, and be sure to help spread the word about the new EBT/SNAP program. We can’t wait to see even more of our neighbors there on Saturday mornings!

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. Check out our full Fresh2Market schedule here.  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, healthful food.

Emily Kovach

Photos, top to bottom: Pexels (first two); Priscilla White

Meet Our Community Partner: Paul Wilkinson of Mogreena

Nestled into a little corner of Modena is Waste Oil Recyclers, a green company that picks up used cooking oil from restaurants and recycles it into biodiesel. Another company, Organic Mechanics, shares the property as well; they make organic potting soil, compost and other gardening products. These two eco-minded entities have apportioned some of their compound for container gardens, an initiative they call the Mogreena Garden Project.

Mogreena consists of nearly half an acre of container garden plots, peppered across the old industrial property. The garden manager is Paul Wilkinson, a part-time employee of Waste Oil Recyclers (he’s also a musician!), who’s been a fixture of the project for some time. Paul began as an employee at Organic Mechanics as a production manager, and enjoyed growing veggies in the containers that some of the other garden-minded employees constructed in 2009. Mogreena became an official nonprofit project in 2013, and Paul became the garden manager in 2016. “Just as the gardens have grown, I grew with them, and took the position when it became available,” he says.

In addition to being a cool project, Mogreena is a community partner of the Chester County Food Bank. Paul plants the garden beds each season with seeds and starters from our Raised Bed Gardens Program, which he says is an enormous logistical and financial help. “It’s huge—working with the Food Bank helps immensely to keep all the gears moving.”

Mogreena then pays it forward by donating back hundreds of pounds of harvested produce to us, to help continue our mission of providing healthful food to our neighbors in need. Mogreena is also host to our Fresh2You Mobile Market on Thursdays from 1:30 – 3:00pm.

Paul is tasked with helping Mogreena to flourish—not just the gardens, but also the community that’s sprung up around the project. Mogreena works with the Coatesville Youth Initiative, an organization that places high school students in different companies to gain work experience in the summertime. Mogreena oversees four students for eight weeks in the summer, and Paul works with the teens, teaching them gardening skills, as well as problem-solving, teamwork and personal responsibility.

One Tuesday per month, Mogreena hosts Garden Nights, where volunteers are invited to come help harvest produce, enjoying a meal and live music as they work. Summer fresh fruits and veggies like chard, kale, lettuce, beets, squash, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, peppers and okra are pulled from their earthy beds, and while some is donated to CCFB, some is saved for the Coatesville Youth Initiative kids. In addition to gardening, cooking education is part of their experience, too. They are taught how to prepare and cook all kinds of dishes with their harvest—sometimes even under the supervision of real chefs.

“Since Waste Oil picks up the veggie oil from different restaurants, we’ve had different chefs come out and cook for the kids,” Paul notes. “Chefs from High Street Café, Tired Hands, La Cabra Brewing … it really helps the kids see what the garden food can become.” In July, chef Alex Shimpeno of Shimpy’s BBQ visited (read a recap written by the kids here), as did chef John Hearn of La Cabra Brewing Company. La Cabra made a great video to recap the day, which you can check out here. Every October, Paul helps to organize an end-of-season Harvest Art Party; this year’s event will take place on Tuesday, October 17 from 5:30-8:30 p.m. and will feature local artists, music, wine tastings and food. Keep an eye on Mogreena’s Facebook page for more info and updates about this inspiring CCFB community partner!

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, top to bottom: Scott Clay; Mogreena (next three photos); Scott Clay; Mogreena

Have a Bounty in Your Garden? Share with Your Neighbors

It’s that glorious time of summer when hours of sunshine during the day and a good soaking from evening thunderstorms make for happy plants, as evidenced by the backyard and community gardens positively exploding with fresh fruits and veggies. You can see the tomato and squash plants growing in leaps and bound before your very eyes!

Some gardens even become so prolific that the gardener has an overwhelming surplus of product to deal with. Sometimes a bounty can feel like a burden; after months spent tending to plants, the last thing a gardener wants is to watch perfectly good plants rot or be eaten away by pests.

If your garden is growing zucchini faster than you can eat it, by all means, surreptitiously drop off some to your neighbors. Then, consider donating some to the food cupboard closest to you.

Here at the Chester County Food Bank, we receive a lot of questions this time of year about donating fresh food from gardens. Every food cupboard is going to have its own guidelines, so don’t be shy about reaching out to ask specific questions before dropping off produce. Our Raised Bed Garden manager Raina Ainslie says, “There are more than 30 crops people could be growing right now, all with different harvest directions. The cupboards will each have their own preferences for washing and the quantities that they would find useful.”

One thing we can recommend for sure is not allowing your zucchini to grow to the size of baseball bats! When squash get too big, the flavor and texture suffer, and the seeds can become tough and inedible. Sure, people can potentially shred one up for zucchini bread or muffins, but this wonderful produce won’t go as far to provide nutrition to families in need as when it can be sautéed, grilled or otherwise cooked into a healthful meal.

Happy harvesting!

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, healthful food.

Emily Kovach

Photos: Pexels

Get Ready for the Ratatouille Hullabalooie on August 10!

Though drive-in movies aren’t the mainstay of summer entertainment that they once were, there’s still something so wonderful about taking in a film under the stars on a steamy summer evening. Thankfully, our children can still know this pleasure, thanks to the many community organizations that have taken to hosting outdoor movies in parks and other public spaces.

On Thursday, August 10, the Hankin Group is hosting an outdoor screening of the animated family classic Ratatouille at the Eagleview Farmers Market in Eagleview Town Center. In addition to being an entertaining, wholesome event for the whole family to enjoy, the “Rataouille Hullabalooie” event will benefit the Chester County Food Bank! This isn’t the beginning of our relationship with The Eagleview Farmers Market—in the colder months, we host its winter farmers market in our warehouse.

“The farmers market, a Growing Roots Partners Farmers Market, is using the opportunity to engage the kids with the market by hosting the special events,” says Lisa O’Neill from Growing Roots Partners. “We are hoping to repeat this combined movie night/farmers market event annually, and Ratatouille is the perfect movie to kick off this new initiative.”

If an evening of fresh produce, fun games and film al fresco sounds like a great time, check out all the details:

The screening of Ratataouille, the tale of a charming Parisian rat with big dreams of becoming a professional chef, starts at 7 p.m. But come early! The Farmers Market runs from 3–7 p.m., and pre-movie activities for the kids will take place from 5–7 p.m. (Bring a blanket to settle in for the movie.)

These activities include:

  • Visiting with goats, chickens, and a piglet (!)
  • A honey bee observation hive
  • Select games for the kids including Busy Bees, VeggieLand and “Souper” Chef
  • A veggie-related activity hosted by The Crafty Chef Academy
  • Healthy eating education and promotion from Chester County Hospital dietitians
  • A Chester County Food Bank information table (our truck will be on site collecting food donations)
  • A life-size milkable cow, which will be turned into the “Cash Cow” to accept cash donations for CCFB

To participate in the crafts and activities, attendees will be asked for food or monetary donations to benefit the Chester County Food Bank, and our initiatives and programs aimed at ending food insecurity in our communities.

No time to cook dinner on such a fun-filled night? There will be special snacks available for purchase, including giant soft pretzels from Stoudts Wonderful Good Market, guacamole and chips from Taste of Puebla, cupcakes from Dia Doce, cookies from Flour & Oats, ready-to-eat meat pies and quiche from Nomadic Pies, Waffles from Waffatopia, crunchies from Sheila’s Crunchy Delight and ice cream sandwiches from iSwich!

Save the date for the “Ratatouille Hullabalooie” on August 10 and come enjoy a great time for a great cause.

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

Featured photo: Pixabay; all other photos: Jeremy Hess, The Premise Studio

Meet the Community Partner: The Clinic

Situated in a big, beautiful Victorian-style house in Phoenixville, in the former rectory of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, is The Clinic. Founded in 2001, this community-based health care center has provided comprehensive medical care to patients regardless of their ability to pay. The Clinic was founded by Dr. Lorna B. Stuart and the Rev. Marie Z. Swayze with funds from a generous anonymous donor, as well as more than $300,000 raised through contributions from the larger community.

The Clinic opened in 2002, and since then has been passionately pursuing its mission of serving a population who fall through the cracks of human and social services, including those who don’t qualify for Medicare or Medicaid. Many of its patients’ incomes are within 150 percent to 200 percent of federal poverty level guidelines. By the end of 2013, just over 10 years since The Clinic was founded, the largely volunteer staff of doctors and nurses has provided medical care to the community equaling more than 100,000 patient visits.

In addition to routine health care services and screenings, The Clinic offers laboratory services, pharmacy services, specialty care and an abundance of resources such as healthy lifestyle classes and the Girls In Medicine program.

We are proud to call The Clinic a partner in one of Chester County Food Bank’s newest projects, the Fresh2You Fruit & Vegetable Prescription (FVRx) Program. Thanks to the work of volunteers and staff like Dr. Ana Negrón and Cindy Clark, The Clinic’s pharmacy assistance program coordinator, we were able to debut this pilot program this summer for some of the patients at The Clinic who are most threatened by food insecurity. Essentially, this program allows medical staff at The Clinic to prescribe Veggie Bucks to patients 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.

The FVRx Program began with a simple observation by Dr. Negrón, one of The Clinic’s regular volunteer providers. Seeing how difficult it was for some of her patients to access nutritious food, including fresh fruits and veggies, on a regular basis, she began to develop a “Healthy Prescription” program. She mentioned the program in a discussion with Roberta Cosentino, the Fresh2You Mobile market manager, back in January, and the idea evolved from there. Working as a partnership, we fleshed out the full concept of FVRx, and with the input and help of the staff at The Clinic, were able to implement the program this summer.

When asked how The Clinic’s patients have been responding so far, Cindy reports that it’s been overwhelmingly positive. “The Clinic enrolled more than 60 patients and their family members during May and June,” she said. “It appears that many are participating based on the activity at the Fresh2You Mobile Market. People can be seen leaving the market with bags overflowing with fresh fruits and vegetables.” Sounds like the start of a successful healthy eating initiative to us!

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

First two photos: Chester County Food Bank; other photos, top to bottom: Jonathan Winberg, Mark Psoras