Monthly Archives: June 2018

Food Bank & Food Pantry: Is There Really a Difference?

Though we’ve been around for nearly a decade, here at the Chester County Food Bank, we notice that there is still sometimes confusion — even among some of our most dedicated supporters — about exactly what we do and how we differ from food pantries and cupboards. We thought it might be helpful to explain here and define some terminology to help clarify!

Some of the issues come from blurry definitions of the terms “food bank” and “food pantry.” When you think of the archetypal, cultural idea of a food bank, perhaps featured on a holiday episode of a television show, it may be of a family picking up a box of food from a church basement or community center. In fact, that scenario is really taking place at a food pantry (or cupboard), where individuals can go during set hours to obtain food. Usually, these locations are staffed by volunteers, and their mission to simply get food into the hands of those who are in need.

Chester County Food Bank, as our name implies, is a food bank, the hub which provides nutritious items to food cupboards. We are a centralized hunger relief organization, taking in donations from many sources, organizing and storing them in our warehouse and then redistributing items to food pantries, which we refer to as our “member agencies.” While we don’t provide boxes of food directly to individuals, we still encourage anyone who needs food to contact us, as we are more than happy to connect you with the many resources within our county that can help.

Part of our role as a food bank (versus a cupboard) is that we take a strategic, holistic approach to combating food insecurity. Yes, distributing food to local cupboards is part of this, but we go even further, with advocacy and educational initiatives like Taste It! and Eat Fresh, supplemental feeding programs for school-aged children and seniors, emergency response food boxes and our Raised Bed Garden Program, which is part of the reason that we can provide so much fresh food to local cupboards.

While we are affiliated with a number of community partners, we are an independent organization. So if you’re considering donating and you want your dollars to stay in Chester County, please note that we are the only food bank in the county. While we are one of the wealthiest counties in Pennsylvania, there are many, many households in our community without reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable and nutritious food at any given time.

We hope this has been a helpful explanation of how we — a food bank — are different from a food pantry. We think of it like this: Chester County Food Bank is the hub in the center of a wheel, and all of the spokes reach out to our member agencies that can connect one-on-one with the neighbors in need in Chester County.

Want to learn more? Watch our our new mission video, 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.

Emily Kovach

Photos: Chester County Food Bank

A Fresh Take on Our Fresh2You Program for 2018

Summer is nearly here, which means it’s time for one of our favorite annual initiatives: the Fresh2You Mobile Market! With generous support from QVC and the Chester County Health Department, this will be our fourth season of bringing affordably priced fresh fruits and veggies to underserved areas via our mobile market on wheels. The official start to the Fresh2You season is Tuesday, June 12.

This year brings some exciting new developments to Fresh2You! For starters, we’re expanding the Fruit & Vegetable RX (FVRx) program in the hopes of helping even more of our neighbors incorporate more fresh produce into their diets. Essentially, FVRx participants are provided with a real “prescription” for Veggie Bucks from their medical provider. Veggie Bucks are vouchers that can then be used to purchase fruits and vegetables each week at the Fresh2You Mobile Market.

“Last year, we piloted it with The Clinic, and it was extremely successful, so we’re expanding it to be at two additional sites,” said Roberta Cosentino, the Fresh2You Mobile Market manager. “One is the Coatesville VA and one is La Comunidad Hispana in Kennett Square. Folks can come to any of our markets and redeem those prescriptions for produce!”

Another update for 2018 is that we are no longer attending two of our sites from last year — Modena and Honey Brook — though we hope to be back in future years. A new location for us will be at the Coventry Mall in North Coventry. “This was somewhere we noticed a lot of people were coming from to our Phoenixville market, and we have a lot of community support out there,” said Roberta.

As always, we want to remind our supporters and clients that the Fresh2You Mobile Market is open to everyone. Whether you scour for the best bargains at the grocery store or shop for heirloom produce at your local farmers market, you are welcome at Fresh2You.

“We’ve learned very clearly that regardless of income level, people want to support local agriculture, want to know where their food is coming from and that there’s no shortage of demand for local produce,” Roberta noted. “We’ve learned that lesson over and over, and we’re trying to increase access in a way that’s dignified and equitable. Part of that equity is making the same foods available to everybody. When you see our logo, come on over and check us out!”

Anyone shopping at the market helps to support the program itself. Fresh2You accepts cash, credit/debit cards, SNAP/EBT and WIC and Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program vouchers (FMNP). We match FMNP vouchers with Veggie Bucks, which we encourage people to come back and use the next time they shop.

No matter who you are, we’re betting that you love getting local produce, grains, spices and honey at a great price. Because of our relationships with farmers and remarkable buying power (we’re almost at the wholesale buying level of a grocery store!), we’re able to purchase food at extremely low wholesale prices. Because we’re a nonprofit and don’t mark the food up, we’re able to pass the savings on to our shoppers. Here are just a few examples of our prices:

  • Local eggs: $2.50/dozen.
  • Fresh bunches of kale: $2 each.
  • Tomatoes: $2/pound.

This year, we’re also bringing back our wildly popular recipe bundles. Each week, trained volunteers run a recipe demonstration that features a seasonal veggie. The volunteers cook the recipe on-site and give out samples. The recipes are generally very simple and healthful; alongside the samples, we hand out the recipe printed on a card and sell all of the ingredients in that dish for just $5. Our group of over 20 volunteers just completed their training and are ready to hit the markets with easy weeknight recipes to share!

“The recipe bundles were a huge success last year and we can’t wait to see how well it goes this year,” Roberta remarked. “We loved seeing this become part of people’s’ weekly routines!”

All of this awaits at the 2018 Fresh2You Mobile Market season. Check out our schedule to find the closest location to you — the truck is out and about five days a week, so come on out to enjoy the bounty of the season!

Want to learn more? Check out our mission video, 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.

Emily Kovach

Photos: Chester County Food Bank