Author Archives: Anne Shuniak

How to Maximize Your CCFB Food Drive

You’ve decided to organize a food drive for the Chester County Food Bank (CCFB)— that’s great! We simply couldn’t tackle food insecurity in our community without these types of donations that come from our dedicated, passionate supporters. Every single item that you and your family, friends, co-workers, and anyone else who’s participating, collect ends up in the hands of one of our neighbors in need, and it can make a positive impact on their day, week and beyond. 

Now that you’ve assembled your awesome crew of food drive team members and registered your drive with the Food Bank, you might be wondering how you can mobilize your energy and make the most of your efforts. We get questions like this a lot! One great place to start is with our Food Drive Tool Kit, which addresses frequently asked questions, provides a list of our most-needed food items, and includes handy resources, like our logo and promotional flyers. 

But there’s one major piece to the food drive puzzle which might not be clear, but it is really important for us: Just focus on a few items instead of trying to gather “one of everything.” While you might think of the food you gather as providing complete meals for one or a few families, it’s better to think of it like taking care of one category of food — perhaps pasta, grains and cereal, or canned or dried beans, or cooking oil. 

“We tell people that are starting to plan their food drive: Think of this as stocking the shelves in a grocery store,” said Claudia Rose-Muir, CCFB’s Direct Distribution and Procurement Manager. “If you were to collect 100 boxes of pasta and 100 jars of sauce, 100 families would have a meal, but if you brought a couple of this or a few of that, while it would be great and more than someone had, it doesn’t help to make a meal.” 

Stocking the shelves is, in fact, what food drives do for CCFB. Remember, we are not a food cupboard or pantry, where families and individuals come to pick up items that will help supplement their meals throughout the week. Chester County Food Bank is a centralized hunger relief organization, taking in donations from many sources, organizing and storing thousands of pounds of food in our warehouse, and then we redistribute items to food pantries, which we refer to as our “member agencies.” (For more on the differences between food banks and food pantries, see here). Our warehouse really does resemble a supermarket; the warehouse is organized by item and laid out in a similar fashion to a supermarket, with wide, deep shelves and aisles.

Choosing one or two items to focus on for your food drive — bonus points for creating a theme, like “pasta dinner” or “Soup-er Bowl” — also makes it easy for all participants to remember. Every time your team members are at the store doing their own shopping, they’ll remember to put a few extra of that item in their cart. Also, common pantry staples are something neighbors typically have on hand. When asking for donations, it’s best to be direct and specific, so a question like, “Do you have an extra can of soup or tuna in your cupboard?” might produce more effective results than a more vague, “Do you have anything to donate to our food drive?” 

Another bonus of approaching your food drive this way is that you can harness the power of buying in bulk (something we know all about from our trips to local produce auctions). Items like rice and dried beans are even more inexpensive when you buy them from a bulk section, which are becoming popular in mainstream grocery stores. If the item your food drive is collecting is on sale one week, you can stock up, and, of course, warehouse stores, like Costco and BJs, are your ace in the hole if you’re a member, when it comes to buying in large quantities.

As with all of our food drives, we encourage you to choose foods that are whole-grain, low-sodium/sugar, and that do not contain high-fructose corn syrup, trans fats or partially hydrogenated oils. Also, please note: We are not able to accept expired or homemade goods, or items in glass. For answer to all other questions, please refer to our Food Bank Tool Kit, or reach out to us at  food@chestercountyfoodbank.org. Good luck on organizing your most successful food drive ever! 

 

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 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 mobilize our community to ensure access to real, healthy food.

Emily Kovach

Photos: Chester County Food Bank

Goodbye & Hello

How lucky we are at the CC Food Bank to have an amazing group of volunteers and staff! Cheryl Fluharty is one such example who shared with us years of smiles and a passion for our mission. Cheryl began volunteering with the Food Bank nearly eight years ago at our Downingtown location. When we moved to our current location in Exton, Cheryl, along with group of regular volunteers, didn’t skip a beat and continued volunteering. In October 2014, Cheryl transitioned from volunteer to part-time Production Cook to prepare meals for our expanding culinary program and partnership with Meals on Wheels. Her culinary skills and passion for food helped to increase client participation. She was also an integral part of creating Simple Suppers which enables us to serve more people in the community. Simply said, Cheryl cooked with love.

Due to the growth at the CC Food Bank, including the kitchen, the Production Cook now requires full time staff. To that end, we would like to welcome Levi Villagomez. A recent graduate of our FRESHstart Kitchen workforce development program, we are excited to welcome Levi to the team. If you’re volunteering with us or dropping off a food drive, please give Levi a welcoming Hello. Thank you Cheryl for sharing your time and talent with the Chester County Food Bank!

State Food Purchase Budget Falls Short

Take action today! Contact your state and local elected officials and let them know that you support the State Food Purchase Program.

• • •

July 1st marks the beginning of Pennsylvania’s fiscal year, and in most years, the beginning of a new state budget. Part of the budget that we pay most attention to at Chester County Food Bank belongs to the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture – a line item called ‘State Food Purchase,’ which appropriates funds to the State Food Purchase Program (SFPP) and the Pennsylvania Agricultural Surplus System (PASS).

Pennsylvanians are fortunate to live in one of a few states that provide a state food program. State food programs extend additional support to eligible households struggling with food insecurity. This is a supplement to other federal nutrition assistance programs like The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP). Throughout the year, CCFB engages with Pennsylvania legislators and our advocate network to support a funding increase to the State Food Purchase budget. Of the total allocation, CCFB receives a portion based upon county unemployment rates and participation in SNAP and the Medical Assistance program.

In fiscal year 2018, Chester County was awarded a share of $325,371 in State Food Purchase funds. Those funds provided nutrition assistance to more than 7,000 households and an additional 70,000 meals at soup kitchens and hot meal sites throughout Chester County.

Along with a network of Food Banks and charitable organizations under the name Hunger Free PA, we asked the state for a combined allocation of $24 million to feed Pennsylvanians in need; $21 million to SFPP and $3 million to PASS. In total, our request would represent 0.07% of the state’s $34 billion budget*. The Pennsylvania state legislature was not swayed by our efforts and did not allocate additional funds in the new State Food Purchase budget.

Over the last 10 years, the average annual increase in funding for the State Food Purchase Program was 0.9%. Meanwhile, over the same 10-year period, the average annual increase in food cost was 1.2%. Since 2014 the average annual increase in food distributed by the Chester County Food Bank is close to 5%. At this rate, the distribution and cost of food for food banks will outpace the state’s food assistance budget in a few years. This will place the burden on us to find additional resources to continue serving our communities with the same quality of healthy food we all deserve.

Take action today!

Contact your state and local elected officials and let them know that you support the State Food Purchase Program.

 

 


* Correction: our request would represent .07% of the state’s budget, not .06%.
Photos: Shutterstock, Dish Works

Water Garden Tour Benefits Food Bank (July 27-28)

One of the more unique events of the summer in Chester County is right around the corner, as the Brandywine Valley Water Garden Weekend Tour is slated for July 29-30.

The origins of the event can be traced back to 2005, when a group of approximately 30 pond enthusiasts gathered to use their interest in the elaborate water gardens built by Coatesville-based Turpin Landscaping as a vehicle for philanthropy. The Tour Committee has raised more than $145,000 for the Food Bank.

“It started as a small group who wanted to give something back to the community,” said Sarah Turpin, who co-owns Turpin Landscaping with her husband Jason, whom customers often refer to as an aquatic artist. “This year, we expect to have about 400 people.”

Self-guided tours are $45, while bus-guided tours are $75. Tickets can be purchased by clicking here.

The tour includes 40 different ponds, all of which Turpin Landscaping has worked on, and a country barbecue, live music, and auction.

In 2009, upon the suggestion of Sen. Andy Dinniman, the Tour directed its efforts to supporting a newly created organization, the Chester County Food Bank.

“The Food Bank’s mission of providing food to those in need right here in our community blended well with the Brandywine Valley Water Garden Tour Committee’s desire to give back to the local community,” said Sarah Turpin.

 

“The Water Garden Tour and Turpin Landscaping were one of the first contributors to the Food Bank when we started in November 2009,” said Larry Welsch, Executive Director of the Chester County Food Bank. “From the team at Turpin, to the Tour Committee members, to all of the garden hosts, this event is truly a community coming together to help those struggling with food insecurity in Chester County.”

One $45 ticket to the Tour will provide 17 meals through the Food Bank.

“We are so very grateful and honored to be the beneficiary,” said Welsch.

The Tour offers the opportunity to visit the homes of local residents who have created beautiful waterscapes in their backyards. Included in the Tour are self-contained ponds with streams and water features ranging in size from small to expansive, as well as waterfalls without visible ponds. Beautiful landscaping, colorful flowers, arrays of dazzling waterfalls, and friendly fish of all colors, shapes, and sizes await those who visit just a few of the many homes featured on the Tour.

On Saturday evening, all the tour participants, along with all the homeowners who have opened their yards and water features in support of the event, are invited to gather at Turpin Landscaping on Martins Corner Road for the barbecue and silent auction.

From sun to shade, from flat to hilly terrains, ponds can be situated practically anywhere. The Turpins certainly love a challenge, as evidenced by some of the properties highlighted on the Tour.

“We do everything for the outdoor lifestyle,” said Sarah Turpin. “Everything from ponds to outdoor kitchens, patios, decks, and pizza ovens. But ponds are certainly a big part of our business.”

Editor’s Note: This post has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

Beyond a Fresh Approach

For the past few years our tagline, A Fresh Approach, has served us very well. When we updated our logo in 2015 (to what it is today) we introduced it with the tag which meant we were new and improved.

  • We had new delivery vehicles with billboard size messaging, and a newly designed warehouse space. This was a big step from our small Parkesburg garage where we first handled our food distributions where we started operations in 2009.
  • We increased our distribution of locally grown vegetables in addition to food staples and canned goods.
  • We encouraged volunteers to help us grow, harvest and process fresh food.
  • We offered lumber for churches, synagogues, schools and organizations to build raised bed gardens and donate their harvests to local pantries.
  • We focused on consistently providing our agencies with meats, poultry, eggs, milk, cheese and whole grains in addition to the typical foods offered by pantries.
  • We began to deliver produce to every corner of the county and to our city neighborhoods where there was no access to affordable fresh foods.
  • We reached out to corporations in new ways, focusing on Chester County and bringing in local volunteer teams to assist us in our efforts.
  • We set out to find the best thinking, the best connections, the best farmland and the best leadership to address better food equity in our community for all.

Together over the past ten years, our accomplishments have been impressive but there is more we are ready to do. We felt that our tagline needed to better represent our vision for the future of the Chester County Food Bank. We’ve created a brand that many people think is much older than 10 years and we want to trade on that good name. We have made connections with the best resources throughout the county to support our distribution partners. Now it’s time to promote those good works:

  • Over the last 10 years, we’ve upgraded our network of partner agencies.
  • At our headquarters in Exton our FRESHstart Kitchen program teaches life skills and provides training for a professional career in the food industry.
  • We host cooking demonstrations for children, youth and adults, to cook with nutritious ingredients and fresh produce; some they may have never seen before nor tasted.
  • We have access to land that is donated for farming in Chester County to grow fruits and vegetables.
  • For kids who get free or reduced lunches during the school year, we are providing food to take home on the weekends and working with community partners to increase summer meal locations throughout the county.
  • We provide Senior Food Boxes to over 700 residents from one corner of the county to the other.
  • We deliver healthy prepared meals through our Simple Suppers and our strong partnership with Meals on Wheels.
  • Fresh2You Mobile Market brings the bounty of Chester County to everyone with locations in low-income neighborhoods.  Everyone is welcome to shop at the market and we also accept SNAP (food stamps).  Additionally, we have introduced a nationally recognized Fruit and Vegetable prescription program.

To update our tagline, we wanted it to reflect on all we have been working on. But we needed something to add emotion. Something that would speak to our participants, volunteers and prospective donors. We want to focus on the successes we have had.  Treating all the people walking through our doors to receive food with dignity, grace and kindness. In the next 10 years, we plan on being even more efficient, investing even more in people, technology, resources and infrastructure. We want to assure each and every one of you that all donations are used efficiently and get directly to the people who need our help. We want to encourage all in our community to donate consistently and to volunteer. Knowing that we don’t look like most other Food Banks, and knowing that we have the ability to do so much more, We want to continue our efforts and go…. Beyond Hunger.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Get Ready to Vote in PA Primaries

“While the Chester County Food Bank does not endorse candidates or political parties, we do advocate for every American’s right to vote,” said Larry Welsch, Executive Director of the Food Bank. “We feel that this effort is important to help us achieve our mission to ‘mobilize our community to ensure access to real, healthy food.”

Primary elections in Pennsylvania are held on the third Tuesday of May in most years. In presidential years, the primary election is held on the fourth Tuesday of April.  In Pennsylvania, you can only vote for the candidates in the same political party you have named in your voter registration. For example, if you registered to vote as a member of the Republican Party then you can vote in the Republican primary, but not the Democratic primary. All voters can vote on constitutional amendments, ballot questions, and any special election contests held at the same time as a primary election.

2019 #PAPrimary Election Important Dates

APRIL 22  You must be registered to vote 29 days before the election, so April 22 is last day to register to vote for the May 21st Primary.

MAY 14      Last day to apply for a civilian absentee ballot | VotesPA.com/Absentee

MAY 17      Voted absentee ballots must be received by the County by 5pm | VotesPA.com/County

MAY 21      Primary Election Day: Polls are open 7am to 8pm | VotesPa.com/Polls

 

In this primary, candidates for the November 5th Municipal Election will be selected, offices include:

COUNTY:

Commissioners
District Attorney
Prothonotary
Recorder of Deeds
Register of Wills
Sheriff
Judge of the Court of Common Pleas
Magisterial District Judge

STATE:

Justice of the Supreme Court
Judge of the Superior Court
Judge of the Commonwealth Court

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.

April is National Volunteer Month

April is National Volunteer Month! We’d like to take this opportunity to celebrate and show appreciation for our dedicated volunteers, and to highlight the importance of an ongoing commitment to volunteering. We are only able to address food insecurity in Chester County because of the immense support that we receive from both volunteers and donors alike. Without committed volunteers who return month after month, year after year…there simply would not be a Chester County Food Bank!

Volunteer Month is a great time to get involved.  The temperatures are rising and Spring is here so we’ll be adding more volunteer opportunities each month. Be sure to check our calendar regularly for new openings

 

In honor of National Volunteer Month, here are some interesting tidbits about volunteering:

The Value of Your Time

Did you know that there’s a dollar amount equivalent to volunteer service? The estimated value of volunteer service in Pennsylvania is $24.35/hour. That amounts to $430,508 of estimated value volunteer hours for the Chester County Food Bank in 2018!

By the Numbers

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ most recent data (2015), here are some quick facts about volunteering nationwide:

  • 2 million people volunteered at least once between September 2014-2015, which equals a national volunteer rate of just under 25%. Impressive!
    (2,484 of those volunteers were with the County Food Bank!)
  • The volunteer rate for women is about 27.8%, while the rate for men is 21.8%. Gotta catch up, gentlemen!
  • Adults between the ages of 35-54 are most likely to volunteer, while young adults are the least likely to serve.

Reasons to Volunteer

If you haven’t volunteered with the Food Bank before, you may ask yourself ‘why should I?’. Here are some great reasons why you should give us a try. Volunteering with us can:

  • Teach you new skills, or perfect skills that you already have
  • Help to fill out your resume
  • Allow you to network with people who have similar skills or interests
  • Help you stay active and engaged
  • Give you a break from screens and your “normal day-to-day”
  • Provide a safe and comfortable environment where social skills can be improved
  • Offer a new perspective and appreciation for people outside of your typical social circle
  • Lead to new friends
  • Learn about the Chester County Food Bank and our work in your community

Have more questions about volunteering?  Email Lauren Van Dyk our volunteer coordinator or call 610-873-6000.

 

Our beloved volunteer Elmer Duckinfield with Executive Director, Larry Welsch. (circa 2010)

Favorite Quotes

We are always inspired by our volunteers. Here are a few famous quotes to inspire you to GET INVOLVED.

  • “Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on Earth.” – Muhammad Ali
  • “Remember that the happiest people are not those getting more, but those giving more.” ― H. Jackson Brown Jr.
  •  “The smallest act of kindness is worth more than the grandest intention.”  – Oscar Wilde
  • “If our hopes of building a better and safer world are to become more than wishful thinking, we will need the engagement of volunteers more than ever.” — Kofi Annan
  • “It’s easy to make a buck.  It’s a lot tougher to make a difference. ” – Tom Brokaw
  • “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” – Dr. Seuss
  • “Everybody can be great. Because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve. You don’t have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

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.

Share Your Love of Cooking – Become a Taste It! Volunteer

If you love to talk to people and think that curly kale is a thing of beauty, then please register to volunteer with the Chester County Food Bank’s Taste It! program. You won’t be disappointed. I promise.

Taste It! volunteers do simple cooking demonstrations at the Fresh2You mobile market, or the various partner food pantries and community partners throughout the county.  Each week during Fresh2You’s market season, staff develop a new recipe for the volunteers to prepare, highlighting seasonal fresh, local produce. The sample ingredients are made available for purchase as a bundle for five dollars including a printed recipe (in English and Spanish) to take home.

In the summer months, we might offer up a smoothie with spinach and melon or a crispy green salad with chopped veggies, while the autumn months will feature warming dishes like the famous cauliflower mac’n cheese or a hearty beans and greens soup. Recipes are simple to follow, affordable, and always delicious. Very often the ingredients are combined in new ways that people just hadn’t thought of, incorporating as much healthy produce as possible.

This will be my fourth season wearing an apron, cutting up fruits and veggies at the Taste It table. There are many reasons why I keep coming back. First, I am passionate about the Chester County Food Bank’s mission to connect more people to high quality, affordable produce. Second, I love talking with the customers, many of whom come to market every week and tell us what they’ve cooked and how they’ve introduced their families to something new. And last but not least, the program staff and interns are not just a dedicated crew, but also top-notch people who know how to have fun. You can’t ask for more.

Martha lives in West Chester with her husband, two of her three kids and a crazy little puppy named Lulu. She loves to walk, swim, practice yoga and spend as much time outside with anyone who will join her.

Want to join Martha and our Taste It! team?  Complete the Taste It! volunteer application 

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. 

 

 

 

 

Advocacy Team Attends Anti-Hunger Policy Conference

In February, three members of Chester County Food Bank’s Advocacy Team attended the Anti-Hunger Policy Conference (AHPC) in Washington, DC. The yearly AHPC conference is a joint effort of the Food Research Action Center and Feeding America.

The conference speakers included Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester of Delaware and the Honorable Stephen K. Benjamin, Mayor of Columbia, South Carolina. Both implored attendees to think beyond the box, harness the power of our voices, and to remain vigilant about local and national legislation.

The conference itself was a rousing combination of workshops focusing on the various programs, community efforts, national initiatives and state and federal legislation which aim to address food insecurity. Topics included strategies to address child nutrition, hunger on college campuses and engaging seniors in food assistance programs.

In addition to the important work of directly connecting people to food, the root causes and effects of poverty were the main focus of the conference. This included ways to engage low-income citizens in voting, connecting the health care community with effective strategies to address food insecurity in their patients, understanding how combating racism and discrimination is essential in the fight against food insecurity, and much more.

On the last day of the conference, attendees spent a day on Capitol Hill, meeting with their local legislators. For the CCFB Advocacy Team, this included personal meetings with Senator Bob Casey, Senator Pat Toomey and Representative Chrissy Houlahan. They were all invited to spend some time with CCFB, learning more about our work so that they can carry that first-hand knowledge with them, but also to support anti-hunger legislation that will

After spending a day on “The Hill” touring the various legislative buildings and even viewing House and Senate floor debates from the public gallery, our resolve was strengthened. Advocating not only for our work, but for the community we serve, is our responsibility and our right. Our voices need to be heard, and if we speak together they will be heard.

We will continue our work and continue our efforts to address the root causes of poverty innovatively and equitably. If you’d like to join CCFB’s advocacy efforts and learn about issues that have a direct effect on you and your food insecure neighbors in Chester County, click here to receive updates and action alerts!

 

Delphi Wealth Management Presents $25,000 Donation to Food Bank

Delphi Wealth Management Group of West Chester presented the Chester County Food Bank with a $25,000 donation on Friday, March 1, 2019, to help sustain the Food Bank’s recently launched FRESHstart KitchenTM culinary workforce development program.

Delphi partners Kevin McDermott and John Kane presented the donation to Ranney Moran, Director of Culinary Programs along with students currently enrolled in the program. After presenting the donation, the Delphi Team volunteered at the Food Bank helping to sort and organize donated food.

FRESHstart Kitchen hosted its inaugural class in September 2018 at the Chester County Food Bank’s Exton headquarters. FRESH, an acronym for Focusing Resources on Employment, Self-Sufficiency and Health, was specifically designed to assist individuals with limited work experience, barriers to employment and significant personal challenges – including substance abuse and criminal records. The workforce development program will provide life skills to help address distinctive and significant challenges entering or re-entering the workforce.

“Support like this from Delphi Wealthy Management Group signifies a deep understanding of the challenges our neighbors face when seeking sustainable employment in Chester County,” said Food Bank Executive Director Larry Welsch. “We are grateful for this generous donation,” continued Ranney Moran, “and thanks to Delphi we anticipate life changing outcomes for our FRESHstart Kitchen students.

Delphi is a member of broker dealer Lincoln Financial Group, the marketing name for Lincoln National Corporation and its affiliates, a prominent financial services company dedicated to helping clients build, preserve and protect wealth. This affiliation helps provide depth, stability and significant resources to clients.