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Author Archives: Anne Shuniak

Andrea Youndt Named New Chief Executive Officer of Chester County Food Bank

The Chester County Food Bank is pleased to announce Andrea Youndt as the new Chief Executive Officer, succeeding Larry Welsch, who retired from the organization at the end of December after serving over ten years as the founding executive director. Youndt began her position on January 4.

Ms. Youndt’s extensive nonprofit experience includes nearly 20 years with regional YMCAs
serving as Executive Director, District Vice President and most recently as Senior Vice President / Chief Operating Officer of the YMCA of Greater Brandywine.

“The Chester County Food Bank is an admired organization in the county, and I am honored to have been selected to continue the work that Larry started with the organization,” said Youndt. “I am looking forward to joining the CCFB team of passionate and talented professionals.”

The Chester County Food Bank is the central hunger relief organization in Chester County serving over 120 network partners such as food cupboards, shelters, and senior centers. The Food Bank distributes more than 3.2 million pounds of food and has seen an upwards of 30% increase of need since the start of the coronavirus in March 2020.

“I am in awe of the work of Food Bank and its network of community partners,” said Youndt. “I look forward to bringing my experience to this talented team as we continue to ensure access to real, healthy food and to prepare for the post-COVID rebuilding.”

“We had a tremendous response to the CEO position; applicants from near and far,” said Bob McNeil, Founding (and current) Chairman of CCFB. “Andrea’s energy and passion for Chester County along with her extensive strategic planning and relationship building with the YMCA made her a standout for the role of CEO,” continued McNeil. “Larry made an outstanding legacy at the Food Bank,” said McNeil. “The Board of Directors looks forward to working with Andrea as she makes her place with this team of extraordinary people that have an admirable passion for the mission of the Food Bank.”

“The role of Executive Director has been the greatest opportunity of my career, said Larry Welsch upon his retirement. “I had the privilege of learning from the staff, agencies, donors, and clients and for that I am eternally grateful. I have no doubt of the compassion that Andrea will bring to CCFB and the community,” said Welsch. “I am excited to watch her journey.”

Youndt, holds a Bachelor of Science from University of Delaware and a Master of Science in Human Resource Management from Wilmington University.  Originally from Lancaster County, she was a resident of Glen Mills for 25 years, and for the past four years has lived in Kennett Square, Chester County.

Ms. Youndt has led 12 mission trips through the Bread for the Children mission program to Lima, Puculpa, and Iquitos, Peru over the past 18 years.

A Message of Gratitude from our Executive Director Upon His Retirement

Over the past 11 years, our strength has been our volunteers, community partners and supporters joining to provide healthy food and nutritional education programs to meet the most pressing needs of our neighbors. In looking back at 2020, we’ll remember a year with daily reminders of inequality, compounded by barriers to services, resources and food.

During the first six months of fiscal 2020, we strengthened our distribution to meet our community’s ongoing demands. However, when the pandemic touched Chester County in March, we saw an immediate uptick in urgent food requests and catastrophic growth in the number of families who found themselves in need of food, many for the first time. Take a look at our FY2020 Impact Report for a look at our work this fiscal year (July 2019 – June 2020)

We were able to redirect and increase the volume of distribution through our well-established channels, and moved our most essential, face-to-face services online for safety. Addressing the pandemic has streamlined our responsiveness, and created new, efficient ways to reach our community.

Before the COVID-19 crisis, I had begun to think about retirement. Clearly, the timing was not right. Now that our systems to cope with the crisis are in place, I feel the time has arrived for me to step aside. The board supports my decision, and we are laying the groundwork together to assure a smooth transition, under the supervision of our founding Chairman, Bob McNeil.

Working with incredible people, who everyday have given all they can to help improve the lives of our neighbors, has been the greatest privilege of my career. I am forever grateful to our heroic staff and our many supporters who have shared our vision for better equity, here in Chester County. I leave behind an organization with a strong foundation, further fortified by the efforts of these last few months. CCFB remains committed to moving our community beyond hunger.

With Gratitude,

Larry Welsch
Executive Director

 

“ You haven’t lived until you’ve done something for someone who can never repay you”
– John Bunyan 

 

photo credit (Chester County Food Bank): Larry was presented with a special bowl by a local potter, Nell Hazinski, that is inscribed with “Thank you for helping to fill the bowls of so many.” 

Rooted in Community

In a season on many unknowns, trust our continued commitment to go beyond hunger.

For the long haul…

We will provide food, with a focus on nutrition, to the more than 75,000 of our neighbors struggling to put food on the table.

We will collaborate and build capacity with our network of community partners, pantries and member agencies to ensure access to real, healthy food.

We will educate on how to grow, cook and serve delicious, simple and healthy meals.

We will steward every donation to sustain our food supply, food security programs and educational opportunities that enrich our neighborhoods and move people beyond hunger.

Join us to go Beyond Hunger 365, our monthly giving community. 

Are you in need of food? Find help in your community. 

Quarterly Impact: October 2020

Program Highlight: Distribution

This year has been rife with unknowns… what remains certain is our commitment to serve our neighbors in need. We are so proud of our 120 + network partners we distribute to, all of which have remained open during the Covid-19 crisis serving their clients with compassion, care and grit.  Many of our agencies, while they remained open, did not have the capacity to meet the need. We were able to leverage relief funds to purchase capital assets such as commercial refrigeration and freezers enabling those agencies to accept and store more food.  We have adapted our distribution operations to safely and efficiently continue to serve. We developed our Sunshine Response Efforts for ‘truck to trunk’ food box (Sunshine Box) drive-thru distributions and “heat and eat” meals (Sunshine Meals) for home delivery and senior center drive-thru distributions.

 

We are grateful for the progress we’ve made during this unusual time thanks to your generous support. Your confidence and commitment to our mission with donations, time and words of encouragement make a difference in the work we do! We are here for the long haul….

 We distributed 2.3 million pounds of food (approximately 1.95 million meals) March – September 2020.

 

Chester County Food Bank Announces New Chair of the Board

History to repeat as Bob McNeil steps back into the role

We are pleased to announce that founding chairman Robert D. McNeil will reprise his position as Chairman of the Board for the Chester County Food Bank. Mr. McNeil was instrumental in creating the Food Bank in 2009 and held the position of Board Chair until 2014.

The transition comes with the recent announcement of founding Executive Director Larry Welsch’s retirement. “I have a deep passion for the work of the Food Bank,” said McNeil, “and I am excited to be invited back to find the next leader of the Chester County Food Bank, someone who will continue the mission and stay rooted in the community.”

“It has been an honor to serve as the CCFB Chair these past several years. A transition from the founding ED to the successor is an important one. It made sense to have Bob, as our founding Chair, lead the Food Bank during this critical phase. I look forward to watching the growth and successes of the Food Bank as an essential service to our community,” said Lauren Harrell, outgoing chair.

“We are grateful for the years that Lauren has dedicated to us and appreciate her guidance navigating us through these uncertain times,” said Larry Welsch.

“I’m looking forward to partnering with Bob once again on the transition of my role, said Larry. “I am confident that together we can ensure a strong future for the Food Bank and for my successor.”

McNeil will once again bring his extensive business and philanthropic background to his role and is eager to work with the dedicated volunteer Board leaders who lend their expertise to mobilize the community to ensure access to real, healthy food for our most vulnerable neighbors in Chester County.

Reliant Upon Volunteers, Food Bank’s Ag Program Produces Fresh Food for Those in Need

As the county’s central hunger relief organization, the Chester County Food Bank serves more than 120 partner agencies and distributes more than three million pounds of healthy food to those in need. While much of the food is secured though donationsfood assistance programs, and grant money, the Food Bank strives for a third of the food it distributes to be fresh from its own Agricultural Program, the success of which depends on a steady supply of volunteers. Lack of transportation, limited income, or scarcity of adequate grocery stores are barriers for many to acquire fresh food as part of a healthy, balanced diet. Through partnerships with local farms, the Ag Program helps break down these barriers by growing, harvesting, and delivering produce to the Food Bank to be processed, packaged, and distributed.

One of those local farms, Pete’s Produce Farm in West Chester, was originally involved with the Chester County Gleaning Program that gathered excess produce from local farms that would otherwise go to waste. Seven years ago, the Food Bank added its own on-site farmer, Bill Shick, who is the current Agricultural Program Director, to help increase production on the land that owner Pete Flynn has allocated to them.

“When I came on, I inherited that relationship with Pete’s farm and expanded it to have more diversity in what we were growing,” said Shick. “Pete continues to do all the tractor work and helps us maintain the irrigation systems, but we took on the responsibility of growing our own seedlings, planting the crops, harvesting, and getting the harvest back to the Food Bank, where the Produce Manager, warehouse staff, and logistics team handle all the re-packaging of the produce.” To help plant and harvest more than 200,000 pounds of fresh produce each season, the Ag Program depends heavily on a willing group of volunteers from the community. The COVID-19 outbreak at the beginning of this year’s growing season, however, cast doubt on how many crops to grow and on how many hands would be available to help bring in the harvest.

CCFB Farmer Colin Mahoney instructs volunteers on harvesting kohlrabi.

“What keeps this job and what keeps farming interesting is that every year is different,” said Shick. “We had no idea what to expect earlier this season due to the pandemic. Our gut reaction was to grow more because we were worried about the food supply, but then we were worried about not having the help to pick it.”

An ironic twist to the pandemic’s economic toll is that – with more people temporarily furloughed, more having flexible work schedules, and fewer taking vacations – there is a greater labor supply to lend a hand on the farm. “We usually struggle with getting volunteers in the summer,” said Shick, “but this year we have more help than ever before. We offer an outdoor opportunity that people feel safer with right now, and we also offer the room to social distance.”

Besides Pete’s Produce Farm, the Ag Program has a greenhouse at Springton Manor Farm in Glenmoore. It is also involved with the horticultural program at the Chester County Intermediate Unit. Colin Mahoney, the Food Bank’s Farm Manager, helps Shick plan which crops to grow and manages the volunteer shifts in the field. He is proud of the different types of produce the Ag Program generates. “We grow spinach, tomatoes, corn, cabbage, peppers, onions, broccoli, kale, cauliflower, cilantro, parsley, mustard greens, and basil,” Mahoney said. “The produce will go for general distribution to our network of food pantries, but also a variety will go to our Fresh2You Mobile Market and Eat Fresh cooking classes.”

The Food Bank appreciates any help it can get out in the field, but making sure volunteers do everything properly, wear gloves, and practice social distancing has taken more time and supervision this year. “To maintain basic safety protocols, we’ve scaled back our capacity this year,” said Mahoney. “We’ve been counting on about 70 volunteers per week, doing about 200 hours of work. Bill and I are the only farmers, so it would be hard to do it all by ourselves. We really rely on the volunteers.” “We’ve been extremely fortunate with a powerful volunteer response this season despite all of its challenges, but it’s crucial that we keep the momentum going through the holidays,” said Lauren Van Dyk, Volunteer Coordinator. The Food Bank is more limited in the number of volunteers it can work with at once due to COVID-19 protocols, and spots do fill up quickly. The Food Bank will seek helpers to join it through the fall. Check the online calendar regularly to view new opportunities.

Chris Cooper of Vista.Today

Executive Director Larry Welsch to Retire at End of the Year

Larry Welsch, the founding Executive Director of Chester County Food Bank, will retire from the organization at the end of this year.

Larry was hired as the first employee of the newly created Chester County Food Bank in October 2009 when county government needed a lead hunger relief organization in Chester County to take over state and federal food programs that were orphaned from a dissolved organization.

Larry began operations in November 2009 in a small two-car garage in Parkesburg and by September 2010 moved operations to a 10,000 square foot building in Guthriesville. Larry’s achievements include increasing the Food Bank’s programs to include nutrition education, strengthening its agriculture program and relocating the operations in 2013 to the Food Bank’s current 36,000 square foot facility in Exton to further expand programs including the addition in 2018 of a culinary training program, FRESHstart Kitchen.

Larry developed deep relationships with CCFB’s network of partner agencies including food cupboards, shelters and schools; Chester County government; regional and state food banks; Hunger Free PA; Feeding Pennsylvania and other community leaders, farmers, businesses and organizations.

“I have been at the Chester County Food Bank for its eleven years of existence. It has been the greatest opportunity of my career. I have had the privilege of working with an incredible group of people, who everyday give all they can to help make the lives of our neighbors better. I am so grateful to our heroic staff and to our many supporters for what we have been able to do for those in need,” said Larry.

“Before the COVID-19 crisis, I had begun to think that it may be time for me to retire. Clearly, I couldn’t have done it then, but now that we have created systems to cope with the crisis, I feel that the end of 2020 is the right time for me to step aside. The Board has been supportive of my decision and we are laying the groundwork together to assure that there will be a smooth transition. I leave behind an organization whose programs are meeting the needs of the community and have been recognized for their effectiveness by other nonprofits. The foundation of the Food Bank is strong and going through these last few months has made it even stronger.”

“Larry’s passion, coupled with tireless energy, has been inspiring,” said Bob McNeil founding chairman of the Chester County Food Bank and member of the executive search committee. “From its modest beginnings, this Food Bank has grown to be one of the strongest organizations in Chester County and Larry’s leadership has put CCFB on the map in the national food bank community. I am honored to have worked alongside Larry and be a part of the Food Bank’s mission. I do not take lightly the task to hire the next Executive Director of the Chester County Food Bank.”

Larry will remain at CCFB through the end of the year and will help with the changeover to a new Executive Director.

“I will miss the Food Bank, and I am very proud that the Food Bank has helped to make Chester County a healthier place for everyone,” he said of his departure. “I want to thank our many donors, volunteers, boards, partners and everyone who has helped CCFB during my time with the organization. I know with your continued support the needs of the food insecure will be met.”

Larry in 2011 with Elmer Duckinfield, beloved ‘grandfather’ of the Food Bank and its first official volunteer.

“It has been an honor to serve as chair of the board with Larry as our leader for the past several years,” said Lauren Harrell, current chairwoman. “His dedication and passion have guided the organization through a period of incredible growth. In light of COVID-19, the Food Bank is needed now more than ever, and the organization’s incredible crisis response would not have been possible without Larry and his leadership. While this is a time to celebrate Larry and his incredible accomplishments, as a board we must also look forward.  To that end, we are dedicated to finding our next Executive Director who can continue to serve our county’s food insecure and lead us into the future.”

Chester County Food Bank has launched an executive search for Larry’s replacement. Qualified applicants can send their resume to CCFBsearch@gmail.com

 

A Note about Volunteering during COVID-19

Updated March 18, 2020 

To our most valued partners – our volunteers:

The Chester County Food Bank, with critical guidance from our health and public safety partners, has made the very difficult decision to stop all volunteer activities through the end of March. We will reassess this decision at the end of the month.

Please monitor our website and social media accounts for changes. As we learn more about the spread of COVID-19 in our area, seemingly by the hour, we, too, are adjusting and adapting. This is new territory for us all, but we feel grateful to be in it together.

In emergency situations, like the COVID-19 pandemic, the Food Bank is considered an essential service and our staff considered essential personnel. It is a badge that we wear with pride and honor. In many ways, launching into an emergency response mode is what we’re trained for. We are here to serve Chester County for as long as we are able to safely do so.

Therefore, we are choosing to drastically limit the number of non-staff who enter our facility and interact with our staff. The most impactful way that we can do this is to limit volunteering. Please know that we have already taken precautionary steps to have certain staff work remotely, on a roughly 14-day cycle, so that we have folks to keep things going should any of us not be able to report to work. We are all taking care to follow the recommended social distancing and other precautionary measures, and we continue to coordinate with our partners like the Chester County Health Department and Emergency Management Division. We are making every effort to stay well-informed with the most up-to-date information.

Please have faith that decisions regarding our operations are made carefully with input from the experts available, and with staff and leadership consensus. We know that most of our volunteers are healthy, and that there are many more folks now at home looking to give their time in a meaningful way, however we feel that is the right call for the health and safety of our community at-large.

We look forward to continually reassessing the situation. We hope that by abiding by a 14-day cyclical approach to things that we will be able to limit COVID-19 exposure and spread, that we’ll provide at least some consistency in terms of our volunteer program status, and that our staff will be more available to focus on what’s most important right now – getting food out to those who need it.

We’d like to remind you that there are many other ways to support the Food Bank beyond hands-on volunteering with us. Please consider collecting food donations (see a list of most-needed items here) or becoming a Beyond Hunger 365 sustaining donor.

Our staff continues to be amazed by the outpouring of support. Please know that as our volunteers you are part of this family, and although we’re operating under new and strange conditions, we appreciate you and we can’t wait to work side-by-side with you again.

We appreciate your support of the Chester County Food Bank, especially during this time of uncertainty and of greater need. We know that the new procedures outlined above will impact many of you – these are not easy decisions to make, and please know that we’re being guided by advice from the experts and by a desire to protect the health and safety of those in our community to the best of our ability.

Your partnership is valued year-round – this is simply a bump in the road. For those who are unable to join us over these next weeks, we will be overjoyed to work with you again when social distancing recommendations are lifted.

If you have any questions about our volunteer program, please connect with Lauren Van Dyk our Volunteer Coordinator at volunteer@chestercountyfoodbank.org or at 610-873-6000 x122.

Together, we will persevere.

 

Important Resources for COVID-19

Please check these resources frequently to ensure that you’re aware of the most up-to-date information available regarding COVID-19 in our area.

A Message from CCFB about COVID-19

We are open and keeping health & safety as our top priority.

The Chester County Food Bank provides an essential service to the community and we will continue to do so taking the recommended COVID-19 precautionary measures for the health and safety of our staff, volunteers, partners and the community.  CCFB is a partner with the Chester County Health Department and will continue to follow their recommendations as the authority on this situation.

Chester County Food Bank has increased cleaning frequency, especially around areas of high traffic (volunteer areas, meeting rooms, bathrooms, food areas). We encourage everyone to follow these best practices to help keep yourself and others healthy. Please refer to the Chester County Health Department for the latest updates.

We realize that the situation today may be different next week or even tomorrow, and any changes will be communicated. We are working with our partner member agencies and food cupboards throughout the county to best serve our neighbors now and planning for ways to meet the increased needs as the situation potentially escalates. We will continue to monitor the situation and work with the Chester County Health Department to follow official recommendations.

Are You in Need of Food Assistance?

CCFB and our partner food cupboards/agencies are open and here to help. To the best of our knowledge, this list of programs is up to date. Due to current health concerns, always call to confirm hours of operation.  If you need further assistance, please call us at 610-873-6000 extension 105 and we are happy to assist you. You can view additional resources here.

 

How Can You Help?

 

DONATE MONEY

Monetary donations will make the biggest impact. In an effort to meet the needs of our community, we are focusing on emergency distribution, including senior and emergency food boxes. Our buying power enables us to stretch your dollars so we can feed more people. Give today or consider making a monthly gift to sustain your giving for the months ahead.

 

VOLUNTEER

Updated September 1, 2020
The Chester County Food Bank welcomes healthy volunteers to lend a hand at this critical time. We will continue to keep everyone’s health and safety our top priority. ALL volunteers are expected to self-screen before reporting to your scheduled volunteer shift and will also be screened upon arrival for the shift .  Find our available opportunities, volunteer registration, and COVID-19 protocols here or button below.

 

HOST A VIRTUAL FOOD DRIVE

Updated October 19, 2020
We are grateful for the support of the community and your concern for those in need. Your support is needed now more than ever but please, consider hosting a virtual food drive or making a monetary donation instead of a traditional food donation. Food from food drives must be sorted and boxed – a task we cannot do right now in observation of limited volunteers due to social distancing.  Warehouse volunteers work on our pre-packed boxes that are filled with purchased food so we can ensure quantity and quality. Your financial gift enables us to purchase the most needed foods to create these ‘Sunshine Boxes’ but also provide fresh fruits and vegetables to help the many people across Chester County that have been severely impacted by missed work, increased childcare expenses, and uncovered medical bills. For questions about hosting a virtual food drive or fundraiser email ashuniak@chestercountyfoodbank.org or call 610-873-6000 ext. 103

Host Virtual Food Drive

 

 

 

 

DONATE FOOD

We are accepting food donations but ask that you please wear a mask and  follow signage posted at our warehouse entrance at the back of the building. Food donations are accepted, Monday/Wednesday/Thursday 8:00a – 4:00p and Tuesday/Friday 8:00am – Noon. Read more about our most needed items here. For questions about food donations please email food@chestercountyfoodbank.org or call 610-873-6000 ext. 109

 

 

DONATE PRODUCE FROM YOUR GARDEN

We welcome home gardeners to grow and donate produce to your local food cupboard or the Food Bank. Please review our best practices for harvesting and donating produce. Please only donate quality produce you would eating yourself. Avoid donating bruised. or overly mature veggies – no giant zucchini please! Please see our modified produce donation procedure and delivery schedule due to COVID-19 restrictions. 

 

 

SHARE THIS INFORMATION

Please share this information with your family/friends and on your social media.
Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

 

Thanks to our many partners and the community, we are able to mobilize quickly to address the food access of our community during this unprecedented situation. As new needs become apparent to us, we will communicate via social media and our website on how you can help.

Thank you, be safe and keep an open heart.