Monthly Archives: October 2017

How We Help Feed Chester County’s Senior Citizens

When you think about our community’s most vulnerable citizens, it can be easy to overlook a population that can face huge struggles: senior citizens. There is a cultural stereotype of a retired couple living out their “golden years” in comfort, but this is far from the case for many of our older neighbors. Not everyone has a pension, retirement funds or extended family to rely on, and Social Security often doesn’t keep up with the increasing costs of living. Unexpected illness, car or home repairs and other unforeseen circumstances can cause huge stress—emotional, physical and financial—for senior citizens.

Claudia Rose-Muir, CCFB’s food sourcing manager, sums up the problem, saying, “The more we delve into the issues of senior hunger, and the more layers we peel back … it is astounding how sad this situation is. The decisions that seniors need make to just exist and have the basic needs of home, heat, food and medicine is hard to swallow.” Claudia shares a specific anecdote about one elderly woman she visited who had a small red microwave oven in her kitchen. “I told her I liked it, and she said with great pride, ‘I love it. It was $49 and I had to save a lot to get it, but now I can heat my food.’”

Here at the Chester County Food Bank, we are taking this growing problem very seriously and have developed programs and partnerships to address this issue. An estimated 11.5% (approximately 7500 people) of the senior population in Chester County is living in poverty, with 6.9 percent of them falling between 100 and 149 percent of the federal poverty level. We aim to help them all combat food insecurity.

Our Senior Food Box Program, supported by the Enterprise Rent-A-Car Foundation, serves nearly 500 adults, ages 60 and older, throughout the county. The boxes are filled with foods that specifically include key nutrients for seniors, such as fresh produce, whole grains and items with reduced sugar and salt. Senior Boxes are distributed every month to 25 sites, including community agencies, food pantries, senior centers and senior housing facilities. In early 2017, we were able to expand the scope of this program, growing from 480 senior boxes per month to 600 in early 2017—a 25 percent increase.

We rely on volunteers to help pack Senior Boxes, and even the little ones can get involved! To bring a smile to our seniors’ days, we offer the opportunity to kids of all ages to decorate food boxes. Boxes can be picked up by request from our facility and returned within two weeks. Please contact food@chestercountyfoodbank.org if you are interested in this activity.

We also work with Meals On Wheels (MOW) to serve seniors with mobility challenges, as well as people of any age who are homebound, handicapped or convalescing from an illness or operation. Since 2014, we’ve contracted with Meals On Wheels of Chester County to prepare, pack and store more than 14,000 meals in our commercial kitchen facility. Powered with plenty of volunteer energy, we create hot and frozen meals, using local produce whenever possible.

With the understanding that inclement weather conditions can take an even bigger toll on our senior population, we also offer Snow Boxes, which are an extension of our work with Meals On Wheels. Each Snow Box contains five shelf-stable meals, juices and snacks; these deliveries are made to all MOW recipients. That way, if bad weather prevents volunteers from delivering meals, homebound clients will have this food on hand until deliveries resume.

By focusing efforts and resources on Chester County’s senior population, we are able to serve more than 600 seniors each month. Please consider donating your time or resources to help us further increase the services we provide to our older neighbors.

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 take a steadfast approach to provide food and build support in the neediest communities, while raising awareness and engagement among our community.

Emily Kovach

Photos: Ed Williams

 

Meet the Team: Claudia Rose-Muir, Food Sourcing Manager

Here at the Chester County Food Bank, we rely on our amazing staff and dedicated volunteers to help us accomplish our ambitious and unwavering goal of ending food insecurity in Chester County.

One of the pillars of our staff is Claudia Rose-Muir, the Food Bank’s food sourcing manager. If we can’t source food consistently and efficiently, then we aren’t able to continue our extensive programming and supporting all of our member agencies. Through Claudia’s hard work, creativity and passion, we have been able to grow and diversify the ways we get access to fresh and shelf-stable foods to help feed our neighbors.

Get to know a little more about Claudia through this Q&A!

Tell us a little bit about yourself! Where are you from, and where do you live now?

Claudia Rose-Muir: I am a New Englander, born and bred, having lived outside Boston, on Cape Cod and in New Hampshire. I moved to Pennsylvania in 1992 and have lived in Coatesville since 1994.

When did you start working with/for CCFB? Was it always in your current role?

I started working at CCFB in May 2013 as a contractor for the raised bed garden program, then moved into the role of kitchen manager that June. I transitioned to food sourcing manager in November 2016.

What does a typical day look like for you as the food sourcing manager?

Well, that’s the fun part of my job: no two days are alike. I could be running a volunteer team packing backpackssenior boxes or sorting donated food. I could be visiting seniors in their homes to learn more about their needs, meeting with CCFB team members to plan upcoming events or brainstorming about new and/or better ways to serve the food insecure of Chester County. On another day, I might be writing menus for senior boxes, talking to vendors about product availability and negotiating pricing, ordering food, doing public speaking events to groups interested in doing food drives, helping people organize their food drives or spending time with Scout troops, teaching them about hunger in Chester County and how they can help.

Wow, that’s a lot of tasks for one job! Do you have extra work to handle with the holidays approaching?

Yes! We are gearing up for the holiday season. That means coordinating lots of food drives—one that can bring in as much as 50,000 pounds—and then two major turkey (and all the sides) distributions in Coatesville for 1,200 people and Parkesburg for 350 people. Produce season is a busy time, but the holidays get crazy, too!

What’s one significant change/evolution at CCFB you’ve seen that you’re proud of?

We have a team goal of making sure that half of the food that we distribute be fresh food, because we know that fresh food is so much better for people’s health. I have been able to watch as we strive to reach to that goal. Currently, we are at just over a third of our distribution [as fresh food]! The great thing is that we are able to send out fresh food in all four seasons now, not just during the growing season, because we have found new ways and vendors to source from. That 50% mark is just around the corner!

What’s the best part of your day?

Driving the forklift! It’s so much fun! But also knowing that the things that I work on every day will help make a difference for people in the county. I know that sounds corny, but it’s true.

Thanks so much, Claudia, for all you that do at the Chester County Food Bank!

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 take a steadfast approach to provide food and build support in the neediest communities, while raising awareness and engagement among our community.

Emily Kovach

Photos, top to bottom: Ed Williams; Chester County Food Bank (remaining photos)

Meet the Community Partner: Octorara Area Food Cupboard

Chester County Food Bank works with dozens of food cupboards in our area to help distribute food to our neighbors in need. One such organization is the Octorara Area Food Cupboard in Parkesburg.

Open in its current location since December 2012, this completely volunteer-run food cupboard serves the Octorara Area School District region, including Atglen, Christiana, Cochranville, Compass, Parkesburg, Pomeroy, Sadsbury and Wagontown.

Through the support of local businesses, churches, schools, civic groups and individuals, it is able to supply nonperishable and fresh foods, as well as dairy and meats, to the community.

The Octorara Food Cupboard also administers an Emergency Food Box program to those in unexpected and dire situations. In 2016, it distributed more than 1,100 pounds of food to people in the area.

The Octorara Area Food Cupboard holds a special place in our hearts because CCFB has been part of it since the beginning. OAFC began in 2005 as a monthly mobile food pantry that would set up in a parking lot in Parkesburg, an area with little access for people in need of food. Operated by the Chester County Food Bank, this market would serve about 65 people with 1,500 pounds of food. In 2010, Judy Dougherty took over as lead volunteer for that mobile pantry and became OAFC’s director in 2012.

At that time, the mobile food market was distributing more than 9,000 pounds of food to 500 residents each month, and OAFC decided it was time for a permanent space. Through a collaborative effort with the Chester County Food Bank and Parkesburg Point Youth Center, as well as local businesses, churches and residents, Octorara Area Food Cupboard opened its doors on Dec. 4, 2012.

CCFB’s executive director, Larry Welsch, was there when that mobile market was founded, and admires Judy as a leader of the ever-growing OAFC.

“Judy is amazing! I am not sure what we would have done without her commitment to the people of that community,” he said. “She has a great team of volunteers and board members who really work hard for that area which, coincidentally, is my hometown!”

As director of OAFC, Judy heads a dedicated group of 50-plus volunteers, who are tasked with unpacking, sorting, identifying and weighing all the food items received. They also stock the shelves in the food area and work with clients coming in for pickups.

“The Octorara Area Food Cupboard’s work has been key to meeting the needs of one of the highest poverty areas in the county. The Chester County Food Bank depends on that work and its partnership with OAFC to ensure access to real, healthy food for the people of that area,” says Larry.

The Octorara Area Food Cupboard is located at 714 W. Main St. in Parkesburg and open Tuesdays from 10 a.m.–noon and 2–4 p.m, and Wednesdays from 10 a.m.–noon and 3–7 p.m.

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 to 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 take a steadfast approach to provide food and build support in the neediest communities, while raising awareness and engagement among our community.

Emily Kovach

Photos, top to bottom: Bigstock; Octorara Area Food Cupboard; Bigstock

Kale Yeah! October 4 is National Kale Day

Kale, the unexpected rock star of green vegetables, is getting its own special day: October 4 is National Kale Day! These days, it seems like there’s a “holiday” for practically everything, but this is one that we’re happy to celebrate. Nutrition is a core value at Chester County Food Bank, and kale (plus collards, and other greens in the brassica family) are jam-packed with an amazing quantity of vitamins and minerals, like iron.

Kale, a hearty veggie, grows well in a variety of climates and soils. We should know—2017 is looking like one of our most successful growing years for kale. This fall, we’re set to harvest literally tons (between 15,000 and 20,000 pounds) of kale and other leafy greens grown in our raised-bed gardens and through our farm partners. We’re so proud of this amazing number, and are excited to share the bounty with our community through our many programs and our partner local food pantries and agencies.

To make this harvest happen, we will continue to rely on volunteer power. Volunteering on the farm is fun, and the autumn harvest is the perfect time to get involved! Check out our volunteer page for more info or to sign up for shifts.

There’s good reason so many people have fallen for kale salads and smoothies, and not just because they make pretty Instagram pictures! Kale is low in calories (just 36 per cup), high in fiber and Vitamins A, C and K, has more iron per calorie than beef and is packed with antioxidants. Also, 1 cup of kale boasts 10 percent of the RDA of omega-3 fatty acid and 9 percent of the recommended calcium and magnesium. Oh, and it has protein, too—2.9 grams per 1 cup serving. Pretty incredible, right?

Perhaps, you, like us, have found yourself with an abundance of kale after a productive summer. Or maybe the emerald green bunches are on sale at your local market, and you’re curious to see what this trendy vegetable is all about. Not sure what to do with kale, or its cousins, Swiss chard and collard greens? The options are almost endless!

Try it in a comforting soup with turkey and noodles (great for Thanksgiving leftovers), or shredded in a protein-packed Tuscan white bean salad. Supercharge a regular potato salad, or go classic with a health food cafe-worthy kale salad. If the texture of raw kale is a bit much for you, try massaging it. Yes, really! Rubbing the uncooked leaves down with a bit of olive oil and salt and allowing it to sit for a few minutes can help make the leaves softer and more pleasant to chew.

This October 4, join us in celebrating the wondrous plant that is kale during National Kale Day!

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, top to bottom: Pexels; Chester County Food Bank (next three photos)