Monthly Archives: May 2018

Meet the Volunteers: Liz and Harry McMunigal

Here at the Chester County Food Bank, we owe so much to the dedicated, passionate group of volunteers who help us continue our mission of addressing food insecurity in our communities. We couldn’t do what we do without them!

We love introducing you to some of these people who generously give their time and energy to the Food Bank — each has their own story to share.

Meet Liz and Harry McMunigal: They are newer to our operation, but have jumped in feet first and are already making a huge impact at the CCFB!

Liz started volunteering with us in September 2017. The couple had recently moved to Downingtown, and as a new retiree, Liz was looking for volunteer opportunities. “As luck would have it, shortly after we moved here, we attended the yearly Open House at the Food Bank and I learned about volunteer opportunities there at that time,” she remembered. A few months later, she signed up to be a backup driver for our Meals on Wheels program. It was through that program that Liz learned about working in the Food Bank’s kitchen, which is where she now spends most of her volunteer time.

Her husband, Harry, says he was also impressed by the Open House, and began volunteering soon after his retirement earlier this year. “I simply thought it was a good cause to do what I could to help serve those with food insecurities,” he said.

Currently, you’ll find Liz working in the kitchen two to three times a week preparing meals for Meals on Wheels recipients, doing prep work for something that is being cooked or baked or plating meals for a future distribution. Occasionally, she’ll also work in the warehouse, doing various tasks from distributing donated food into its categories or packing boxes for distribution to senior citizens or backpacks for school children. “In the summer and fall, there are also many opportunities for bagging up fresh produce to be given out or sold,” she said.

Simple Suppers

Harry spends most of his three-hour shifts working in the warehouse, organizing donated food or preparing food for distribution. “It’s very enjoyable because I work with other volunteers who are very pleasant to work with and committed to helping those in need,” he said.

Liz also reports that the people she works alongside are her favorite part of volunteering at CCFB. “No matter what assignment I have, I’m working with the greatest bunch of people all the time,” she added. “The staff is so impressively dedicated to providing fresh and healthy food to the underserved communities in the area.”

While neither of them have food backgrounds, they have plenty of work experience in advocacy — both Liz and Harry were attorneys for 35 years!

“As far as my actual work with the Food Bank, I have no previous experience, so I’m starting from scratch and learning a lot!” Liz said. “And my work in the kitchen, under Cheryl’s [Fluharty, contracted kitchen staff at the Food Bank] excellent tutelage, has given me many good cooking tips to bring home!”

Harry says that what he’s picked up from his volunteer experiences is “that you can help others while being encouraged by the staff who, to a person, are very optimistic and conversant about the goals of the Food Bank.”

Their volunteering doesn’t stop at CCFB. Liz recently signed on to be a volunteer through Family Services of Chester County to drive people without transportation access to medical appointments, and still sometimes drive for Meals on Wheels as a substitute driver. Harry also volunteers at one of the food kitchens that the Food Bank in Coatesville serves.

Liz and Harry both encourage anyone who’s considering volunteering at CCFB to give it a try. Liz explained, “The Food Bank is a perfect place to begin the volunteer process, as you can sign on for as little or as many opportunities as you wish, doing a variety of tasks from working in the warehouse or the kitchen to planting or harvesting crops on the farms with whom the Food Bank deals. The facilities are impressive, and as stated earlier, the people are so dedicated and are fantastic to work with, and it’s just so much fun!”

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

Photos: Chester County Food Bank

PB&J Drive: Help Stock Shelves with This Pantry Favorite

When we think of kids in summertime, many of us conjure images of children splashing in pools, playing sports at camps, having sleepovers with friends or racing against the sun’s heat to enjoy an ice cream cone before it melts.

But for many children, in our neighborhoods and beyond, these idyllic scenes are far from reality. In fact, for more than 18,000 students in Chester County, school’s being out of session means that the only meal they can be certain of—school lunch—is no longer a constant they can count on. Also, many kids who aren’t old enough to cook something safely for themselves are left home alone. Peanut butter and jelly isn’t just for kids, but families and seniors also rely on this pantry staple.

That’s why the Chester County Food Bank is partnering with the United Way of Chester County to help fill the shelves of neighbors in need with a crowd-pleasing food: peanut butter and jelly! This classic sandwich is a good source of protein, and is also easy for school-age kids to make for themselves without risk of cuts or burns.

We’ll be gathering the supplies we need to keep our agencies stocked all summer long at our Fourth Annual Peanut Butter & Jelly Drive and Community Weigh-In.

Here’s how it works:

  1. To participate in the PB&J Drive, first assemble a team. This can be neighbors, co-workers, school groups, family—anyone!
  2. Begin collecting donations of any brand or type of peanut butter, almond or alternative nut butter, jelly or jam. We ask that items have NO high fructose corn syrup and no trans fats. To avoid breakage, we ask for plastic jars instead of glass. Also, no expired or homemade items or pre-made sandwiches, please.
  3. Weigh in! On Friday, June 1, from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., bring all of your donations to the Chester County Food Bank in Exton for the Community Weigh-In event!

This festive event is a great time to deliver your PB&J collection, connect with the community and tour the Food Bank! And since you’ll definitely have PB&J on the brain, enjoy lunch from our PB&J Café, which will feature the classic sandwich, as well as modern flavor updates (think sriracha hot sauce and bacon!).

Fun fact: The team to beat is the Matt Gorham Real Estate team, which is the three-year Peanut Butter Cup Champion. In 2015, the team donated 694 pounds and with now three years under their belt the team has donated nearly FOUR TON to the drive!

However, Shire Pharmaceuticals gave the Matt Gorham Group a run for the peanut butter last year with only a 72 pound difference. Can your team measure up?

We’ve had such an amazing response to this event. Last year’s event brought in over 27,000 POUNDS of peanut butter and jelly. We are better together.  Will you join us?

For more info on the PB&J drive, visit the event page or email food@chestercountyfoodbank.org. If you’re unable to participate directly in the drive, please consider making a financial donation. Because CCFB can buy the food our clients need in bulk, we can stretch your dollars further to purchase even more of this important pantry staple with your generous donation.

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. Reach us at 610-873-6000. 

Emily Kovach

 

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in May 2017 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

3 Ways to Practice Advocacy at Home

Here at Chester County Food Bank, advocacy is central to our mission. Of course, action is also key to accomplishing our work to combat food insecurity in our communities, as well as carry out all of the many programseducational outreach opportunities and direct distribution initiatives that we provide to our neighbors in need. But without advocacy (defined as “public support for or recommendation of a particular cause or policy”), we wouldn’t have a network of allies to help us spread the word about our work and share the important message about how hunger affects those living in our cities and towns.

Not only do we rely on our supporters to act as advocates, but we also practice advocacy. Ricky Eller, our administrative and program assistant, says that CCFB practices advocacy by committing to protect federal and state nutrition programs, which help to keep food on the tables of our neighbors currently experiencing or are at risk of food insecurity.

“Whether we are meeting with representatives in Harrisburg to champion funding for SFPP (State Food Purchase Program) or engaging with our partner agencies to ask their members of Congress to protect SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), our efforts are aimed at educating the community on these vitally important programs and the role they serve in Chester County,” he says. “Simply put, we can’t do it alone, and advocacy is just one way that we work to meet our mission of mobilizing our community to ensure access to real, healthy food.”

While you might not have the time or resources to meet with state reps or undertake a big campaign, we urge you to not assume that advocacy isn’t for you. There are so many small, everyday ways that you can practice advocacy right at home. It’s too easy to believe that if we’re not doing something “big” that we aren’t able to make an impact, but here at CCFB, we’ve seen that assumption debunked over and over again.

Here are three ways you can practice advocacy at home:

1. Share an article on social media: Facebook can be used for some much more than posting family photos or cute animal memes. Social media can be an incredible tool for sharing information and educating friends and family about important social issues.

Ricky notes that “many folks don’t realize the prevalence of hunger in our community, and right now is a particularly important time to bring awareness to anti-hunger policy with the reauthorization of the Farm Bill in Congress. Just starting the conversation is a great place to begin.”

Sharing news articles — from trusted, reputable sources, of course — is an easy and almost instant way of practicing advocacy. Our new mission mini-documentary is a great way to learn more about us and to share with your online network.

2. Educate yourself: Sharing articles via social media becomes a lot more powerful when you also educate yourself about the issues you care about. For instance, when it comes to hunger and food insecurity, many policies benefit communities in more ways than providing food.

“A program like SNAP is an important revenue stream for communities,” Ricky explains. “Every dollar of SNAP is estimated to generate $1.70 of economic activity that would be sorely missed by businesses in Chester County. Once folks have an understanding, writing or calling elected officials is an effective way to have your voice heard. The more personalized the message, the better!”

Firsthand experience can also be the most compelling form of education. Volunteering at a food pantry or meal site in your neighborhood can provide a meaningful way to connect with people who have real-life experiences with hunger. “Having a story to share with legislators will embolden advocates to take a stand to protect the programs we fight for every day,” Ricky says.

3. Shop at your local farmers market: Keep your dollars working locally by supporting your local food system. Most communities hold a weekly farmers market for at least part of the year, and choosing to buy some of your groceries at these markets is a huge help to farmers in our region. You’ll get the benefit of fresh, seasonal produce — often organic or grown with Integrated Pest Management practices — all while supporting the agricultural community instead of multinational corporations.

We hope these three suggestions have helped show how anyone can practice simple acts of advocacy in their day-to-day life. Try one of them and see how easy it can be to speak out and support our mission to end hunger insecurity in Chester County!

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

Photos, top to bottom: Pexels; Chester County Food Bank; Bigstock

How Far Your $20 Can Go at Chester County Food Bank

What can you do with a $20 bill? Put some gas in your car, take a friend out to a movie, maybe pick up a new book or DVD. One place $20 won’t go very far, we’ve noticed, is the grocery store. Have you ever run into the store just to “buy a few things,” and walked out with a half-full bag and $50 less in your bank account? While the cost of food is lower in the United States than in many countries with similar economies, it can still seem pretty expensive while doing your shopping.

That’s just one of the reasons we’re so proud of our purchasing power at Chester County Food Bank. We take your $20 donation so much further than you could spend it in a supermarket. This is possible through our relationships with local farmers, from whom we buy surplus produce; by pursuing exceptionally priced deals with food wholesalers and by making frequent trips to the Leola Produce Auction, where we scout out the best deals on fruits and veggies that Amish and Mennonite farmers bring in by the truckload.

Take a minute to envision what $20 might purchase at a regular market, and then check out how far your $20 donation could go at Chester County Food Bank:

  • Four weekend backpacks: For many of the 18,000 children in our community who rely on free or reduced-price meals at school, the weekends can be tough. Our Weekend Backpack program combats food insecurity for these kids with nutritious, family-friendly ingredients to keep them fed all weekend long. A typical weekend backpack might contain rice, chicken, oatmeal, milk, trail mix, raisins and cans of fruits and veggies. One $20 bill can provide weekend meals for four kids.
  • 20 boxes of cereal: Can you imagine how much 20 boxes of even the cheapest cereal would run you at the grocery store? Because our buying power and warehouse storage allows us to purchase in bulk, we can get remarkably good deals on dry goods such as cereal. Your $20 donation could purchase 20 boxes of cereal to help feed our neighbors in need.
  • 80 pounds of fresh produce: Chester County Food Bank is able to distribute nearly one million pounds of fresh produce per year. Although our Raised Bed Garden and Farming programs provide us with some of that produce, the majority comes from items that we purchase at auction. The prices at the Leola Produce Auction are so low that, on average, we can buy many fruits and veggies for 25 cents per pound! That means a $20 donation can help us buy 80 pounds of nutrient-packed produce, like fresh broccoli.
  • 80 pounds of rice or dried beans: One of the most economic ways we can stretch $20 is by buying bulk dried beans and grains and then bagging them up into smaller portions. Imagine an 80-pound heap of rice — that’s what your donation could accomplish by allowing us to purchase bulk goods at 25 cents per pound!
  • A complete Thanksgiving dinner for a family: Though we believe every meal is important, holiday meals can add extra pressure for families struggling to make ends meet. For $20, we can provide a full Thanksgiving meal with all the trimmings for one family of 6 to 8 people. This includes a whole turkey, potatoes, vegetables, stuffing, cranberry sauce and gravy. For the price of a cheap lunch date, you can provide a memorable Thanksgiving for a hungry family in our community.

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

Photos: Chester County Food Bank