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Author Archives: Anne Shuniak

Wegmans Donates Over $150k and 8.5 Tons of Food

On Thursday, February 22, 2018, a group of employees from Wegmans Food Markets’ Downingtown and Malvern stores visited the Food Bank to present a check for $152,789 and deliver a truckload of over 17,000 pounds of non-perishable food.

Wegmans employees from the two local stores will be on hand to help to sort and organize 20 pallets of food, including canned soups, vegetables and fruit, peanut butter, canned tuna, cereal and juice.

“I am truly amazed at the collaboration between Wegmans and their customers,” says Larry Welsch, executive director of the Chester County Food Bank. Wegmans has been a partner with us since 2010 donating over three quarters of a million dollars through Care About Hunger. Unfortunately, food insecurity continues to increase in Chester County so we are ever grateful that Wegmans is a steadfast supporter of the Food Bank and our mission to mobilize the community to ensure access to real, healthy food.

The funds were raised during Wegmans’ Care About Hunger campaign, which ran October 19 through December 20, 2017. During the campaign, customers and employees could contribute $1 to $5 or any other amount at checkout, with 100% of the proceeds going to each store’s local food bank. Regionally, the fall campaign raised $78,646 more than the previous year and the Downingtown and Malvern stores raised $6,527 more in fall 2017 than the fall 2016 campaign. The success of Care About Hunger and donation of food strengthens each year, thereby allowing the Food Bank to serve more of our neighbors in need.

“We believe communities thrive when we all work together, and there’s no greater example of that than our partnerships with local and regional food banks to help provide food for people at risk of hunger, whether that’s through food donations or checkout scanning campaigns,” said Wegmans Malvern Store Manager Amy Miller. “We’re grateful for our customers and employees who demonstrate a shared commitment to making a difference in our communities by giving so generously during the Care About Hunger campaign each year, and for our community partners who work so hard addressing the needs of our communities all year long.”

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. 

Food Bank Community Aids Hurricane Victims

The Chester County Food Bank is in communication with our regional food bank neighbors and Feeding America to educate our communities about providing food assistance to the people of Texas and the Gulf region affected by Hurricane Harvey.

When disaster strikes, the Feeding America network is on the ground and ready to deliver food and emergency supplies to help people cope in the aftermath. The Feeding America network is actively working to help support families facing disaster relief and recovery in situations like the hurricane and flooding in Texas.

A man helps children across a flooded street on Aug 27, 2017. Houston (Photo Credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

How You Can Help

There are five Feeding America food banks located in the affected area that need your help. Please consider making a monetary donation to these food banks which are on the front lines of the disaster relief:

Feeding Texas is helping to coordinate efforts throughout the state. With your contribution, Feeding America will deliver food, water, cleaning supplies and other essentials to communities devastated by the storm.

The Chester County Food Bank stands ready to help and is currently preparing a shipment of non-perishable food with our regional food bank partners. We will keep our Chester County community informed as we are called upon to send resources to the affected region.

Credit: NASA European Pressphoto Agency

Other Donations

We appreciate your generosity and know that you want to do everything you can to help after a disaster.

Unfortunately, collecting and sending food, clothing and other household items often does more harm than good because of logistical challenges. Instead, the best way to support disaster victims is with a financial donation.

Thank you for joining us in this effort.

Chester County Commissioners Present $25,000 Check to Food Bank

The Chester County Commissioners presented a check for $25,000 to representatives from the Chester County Food Bank this week. The funds are part of the County’s annual appropriations to organizations and non-profits.

The check was presented at Pete’s Produce Farm in Westtown Township, to Larry Welsh, Executive Director, and Norm Horn, Director of Development for the Chester County Food Bank.  The Food Bank grows on approximately four acres of farmland that Pete Flynn, who is also a Food Bank Board member, allocates to the CCFB Agricultural Program. With the help of over a thousand volunteers each season, more than 200,000 pounds of produce is anticipated to be harvested from farm partners Pete’s Produce and Springton Manor Farm.

Chester County government actively supports the work of the Chester County Food Bank, and in particular the farm and garden programs, growing vegetables and fruit at the County’s Springton Manor Farm as well as at the Chester County Youth Center and Chester County Prison.

Nearly $300,000 of state and federal funding channels through Chester County government for the Chester County Food Bank annually, and in addition to the Commissioners’ annual appropriation, county employees donate food and toiletry items to the Food Bank as part of the county’s monthly dress down day program.

The Chester County Food Bank serves approximately 50,000 people a year through their network of more than 120 partner agencies such as food cupboards, meal sites and social service agencies.  Last year, 2.5 million pounds of food were distributed, including over 800,000 pounds of fresh produce.

 

Chester County is the first county in Pennsylvania to initiate a strategic planning process and has a AAA rating on its bonds from Moody’s Investors Service as well as AAA ratings from Standard & Poor’s and Fitch Ratings.  Established by William Penn as one of Pennsylvania’s three original counties, Chester County has been named by Forbes.com as one of America’s best places to raise a family and is ranked the healthiest county in Pennsylvania by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute.

 

PHOTO IDENTIFICATIONS FROM LEFT:  Commissioner Kathi Cozzone; Larry Welsh, Executive Director of the Chester County Food Bank; Norm Horn, Director of Development at the Chester County Food Bank; Commissioner Michelle Kichline and Commissioner Terence Farrell.

Brandywine Valley Water Garden Tour Donates $17,000 to Food Bank

Now in its 13th year, the Brandywine Valley Water Garden tour is the premier tour of its kind in Chester County featuring over 35 water features and gardens throughout the county. Since 2010, at the suggestion of Senator Dinniman, the Tour has benefited the Chester County Food Bank and has contributed over $97,000.

The two day, self-guided tour held in July offers an opportunity to visit the homes of local residents and neighbors who have created beautiful waterscapes in their backyards with the help of Turpin Landscaping, a family-owned business headquartered in Coatesville.

“The Water Garden Tour is a creative method of giving back to our community, said Jason Turpin, CEO of Turpin Landscaping. We feel good knowing that our donation is going to the Chester County Food Bank, which is an incredible organization that uses the funds to help Chester County residents struggling to put food on the table.”

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

Water Garden Tour Committee Members and Turpin Landscaping family presented this years $17,000 donation to the Food Bank at a celebratory dinner held in November at Wyebrook Farm. For more information about the Water Garden Tour and 2017 tour dates, visit www.brandywinepondtour.com.

Since its inception in 2009, the Food Bank takes a steadfast approach to provide food and build support in the neediest communities, while raising awareness and engagement among our community. Want to learn more? Sign up for our newsletter and stay connected. 

Photo credit: Rich Coster

Chester County Food Bank Always Wins Big at Produce Auction

“I once had someone tell me that she didn’t think she deserved fresh food because of the situation she was in. I still remember her saying. ‘I just didn’t think I should deserve this.’ Hearing things like that is why I do this job. Everyone deserves fresh food,” said Anne Shuniak, Community Engagement & Marketing Manager of the Chester County Food Bank (CCFB).

In pursuit of its goal to provide fresh food to everyone, CCFB has broken the mold with farm partnershipsnutritional programs, a raised garden bed program, corporate partnerships and foundationsvolunteer initiatives, a commercial kitchen, a mobile food truck and more. In addition, for the last five years the Food Bank has been attending produce auctions one to two times a week to source the freshest food possible at an affordable rate.

The Food Bank invited key community partners (including representatives from Wegman’s, QVC and Vanguard) along to see anne-wegmans-leola-produce-auction-10-460x592the auction in action. Produce auctions are exciting events in themselves, with rows upon rows of fresh, locally grown produce waiting for the right (bulk) buyer to sweep them away in the early morning hours. Boxes are stacked on the carts with one sample of the lot cut open and ready for bidders to taste and inspect. Bidders from the CCFB are armed with shopping lists, spoons to taste and pens to take notes.

“This is what being a sustainable community is all about. Everyone wins; the food is produced in PA, so the farmer wins, the community wins and the donated dollars go further,” said Anne.

Ryan Jonas, Senior Market Researcher at the Vanguard Group, was excited to witness the activity with their CCFB partner. “I think a lot of people don’t realize how many people in Chester County are truly in need—there are over 40,000 people who live in Chester County who do not know where their next meal is coming from. The Chester County Food Bank works hard to reduce that number and to make sure that those in need are getting healthy food. Because Vanguard has a large percentage of employees who live in Chester County, it was important to find a food bank to support our annual food drive. Chester County Food Bank not only does a tremendous job of supporting the community with a host of unique and innovative programs, they are in the forefront of fighting two issues at the same time: the war on hunger and the war on obesity. They focus on not only providing food to those in need, but making sure that the food provided is healthy. We have been working with the Chester County Food Bank for many years and they continue to be an amazing partner!”

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New to bidding duty this year is Denise Denise Sheehan, Director of Operations. “We have three volunteers that have been going to the auction since we started. They are retired gentlemen that were interested in volunteering with us but wanted to do something different.”

Denise, along with seasoned bidding volunteers, heads to the auction a few times a week. Bidding on items is a lot of pressure when you’re responsible for buying food to feed so many. “When we are up at the auction together we put together a game plan of what we’re looking for along with the price we are willing to pay and how much we can take.” Denise and the team decide on quantity and selection of items for their mega-sized grocery list based on the season and how many families each agency is serving that week

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Ryan Jonas was excited to see such a return on their investment at the auction. “It was amazing to see how well the Chester County Food B puts the donation dollars to use. I could not believe that watermelons were selling for $1/melon when they are at least five times that at the local grocery store.”

Denise drove that point home even further. “The auction is definitely the most efficient way to get fresh produce into the norm-larry-leola
community via our agency network. We pay an average of 25 cents per pound, which is why we prefer cash donations to be able to purchase produce. All of our Direct Distribution programs benefit from cash donations in much the same way. Children and Seniors benefit from donations via our Backpack Program and Senior Box Program as we are able to get great pricing on bulk buys of nonperishable foods. People like the idea of Food Drives because of the instant gratification of seeing the food, but in reality we could buy two to three times more if they did a Fund Drive and we purchased the food. We also rely on cash donations for General Operating—keeping the lights on, fuel in the trucks and staffing.”

On our trip, one of the items on the list was cabbage. Denise (who floated confidently in a sea of dozens of local farmers, market managers and buyers) calmly bid on and won four bins of cabbage, each filled with 80–90 heads. All of the cabbage went to the CCFB’s commercial kitchen to have the outer leaves removed and then out to the agencies to be redistributed to clients. “Some of the produce we purchase does go out on the Fresh2You truck for sale,” she added.

Other winning quantities of produce have a similar journey. Once it returns to the CCFB warehouse it is then weighed and received into inventory. Depending what type of produce it is, it either goes directly to the agencies for redistribution to clients or it goes into the processing kitchen. Items like broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage need to have their outer leaves and stalks trimmed before they are bagged and sent to agencies. “We are also purchasing for two other larger food banks this year—Philabundance and Central PA Food Bank. They send their own trucks that take the produce back to their warehouses directly from the auction,” said Denise.

The team at the CCFB is a group of hard-working, passionate individuals that makes up a greater force of positivity and innovation. “The CCFB has always been ahead of the curve when it comes to providing fresh produce—whether we buy it at auction, grow it on one of our partner farms or buy directly from local farmers here in Chester County. We focus on education both at the agency and client level and have created programming that will engage the community at all levels. Our newly crafted mission statement—”We mobilize our community to ensure access to real, healthy food”—is a testament to where we are as an organization, and the funds we receive allow us to continue working toward this.”

Vanguard’s Ryan Jonas added, “In addition to seeing the tremendous buying power that the Chester County Food Bank had at the produce auction, we saw another great way they serve our community through another program. Every year, we ask all of our partner agencies how we can best help them in their efforts to provide for the community, since they are on the front lines. This year, the Chester County Food Bank asked for help with its annual backpack program by providing enough cans of tuna to last the entire year. Many children from low-income families get free or discounted lunch at their school, but on weekends,they cannot rely on this help. Every Friday, the Chester County Food Bank’s backpack program gives these children food to last over the weekend. We searched for the best price for the tuna and then made a purchase of more than 10,000 cans to supply the program for the entire school year. It was amazing to see the money from our employees be able to help so many children.”

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Supported by the folks that live, work and play in Chester County, the desire to help is contagious. As Jonas said, “I do want to point out that the money and food that was given to the Chester County Food Bank (and our other partners for the food drive) came 100% from Vanguard’s employees—not the company itself.”

Stay connected with the Chester County Food Bank by volunteeringorganizing a food drive or donating.

Get Involved: 4 Ways You Can Help the Food Bank This Fall

Now that the kids are back at school, the Chester County Food Bank—a local nonprofit organization that collects, grows, purchases, processes, stores and distributes food to over 120 food cupboards and meal sites throughout the county—has some immediate needs so that they can help to feed the hungry in our community. While you may be dreaming of pumpkin spice lattes, there are people in our own neighborhoods who don’t know when they will get their next nutritious meal. Here are a few ways you can help:

Weekday Volunteers

Dedicated students helped out all summer in the kitchen and at area farms. Now that these students are back to school, the Food Bank has many available shifts for weekday volunteers. This is a great opportunity if you’ve been looking to join in and help.

Signing up to volunteer is easy via the online volunteer calendar. Once you create a profile, you can register for the workdays of your choosing.

The Food Bank is also accepting group volunteer requests for shifts now until December. This is a great activity for a church, business or moms’ club to give back to the community. Email volunteer@chestercountyfoodbank.org today with three potential dates, as well as your preferred time and location—kitchen or farm. It’s that simple!

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Weekend Backpack Program

Did you know the Chester County Food Bank has a weekend backpack program for food-insecure students? The program helps children get nutritious and easy-to-prepare food so that they don’t go hungry over the weekend. At the discretion of school officials, food is offered not only to students eligible for free or reduced meals, but also to students who fall within the gap of ineligibility for the school meal subsidy programs.

Volunteers are needed to pack resealable bags with a rotating variety of shelf-stable food items that the Food Bank distributes weekly from October through May to 10 school districts in Chester County, including after-school programs and Head Start sites.

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Back to School Food Drive

Heading back to school is a great time for food drives! Whether through a sports team, an on-campus service organization or a theater performance group, there are so many opportunities to get students involved in the issue of food insecurity. It’s a great time for companies to participate in back to school-themed food drives, too. The most needed items currently are pasta, rice, canned tuna and chicken, cereal, oatmeal and canned fruit and vegetables. Visit the Food Bank’s website for more information on how to host a successful food drive.

Donate

Short on time and can’t volunteer? No problem! The Chester County Food Bank accepts monetary donations to support all of its programs. Your financial contribution helps the Food Bank serve our Chester County neighbors who struggle with hunger and food insecurity. Cash donations support innovative programs to address the root causes of hunger through advocacy and education. Monetary donations also allow Chester County Food Bank to purchase bulk food and fresh produce.

Donating is easy. Contact us via email or phone (610-873-6000) or donate directly online.

To find out more about programs, news and how to get involved with Chester County Food Bank, visit the organization’s website and be sure to follow along on Facebook.

The Chester County Food Bank is located at 650 Pennsylvania Dr. in Exton; phone: (610) 873-6000.

Peeling the Onion: The 411 on the Chester County Food Bank

Now in its sixth year of operation, the Chester County Food Bank has always been on a dedicated mission to end hunger in Chester County, but do you know how we do it, what we promote or how the education that we provide benefits the community?

There are many life-changing layers of this onion to peel. The Food Bank does so much more than collect canned goods, sort fresh produce and raise awareness of the need to help close to 50,000 people. Take a look at the snapshot below.

The Who

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A dedicated board of directors and a tireless staff work together with enthusiastic volunteers to come up with ways to benefit local communities through:

  • The collection and distribution of fresh food and nonperishable items throughout the county, including “food desert” areas.
  • The education of our communities on the benefits of food access, healthy food preparation and teaching healthy cooking habits.
  • Providing the means to organize and promote successful food drives with schools, businesses, organizations and individuals.
  • Providing maps and lists of food cupboards, soup kitchens and other hot meal sites for those in need and those who wish to help.

The How

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It takes a tremendous amount of people-power to bring about positive change in Chester County. Take a look at just a few examples of how the Food Bank makes an impact.

Food Drives: Schools, corporations and personal food drives are a valuable resource to acquire much-needed nonperishable items to stock the shelves of the distribution center.

Raised Bed Gardens: a network of over 100 garden sites provides fresh produce to local food cupboards from May through November.

Farming: Partnerships with local farms like Pete’s Produce Farm and Springton Manor Farm are essential in providing fresh produce to the Food Bank for distribution.

Commercial Kitchen: This first stop is where food is cleaned, sorted and packaged by a core team of hard-working volunteers.

Distribution: The Food Bank operates from its sole facility in Exton, where food arrives from local farms, corporations, individuals and government programs to be prepped for over 120 cupboards, pantries and partners that are located throughout Chester County.

Food Sourcing: The Chester County Food Bank uses its financial resources to purchase perishable and nonperishable food for those in need throughout the year.

Education: The Food Bank teaches the community about the importance of healthy eating through Nutrition Education programs, recipes, cooking classes and the Fresh2You Mobile Market.

The Why

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  • Be informed. Did you know that a single parent working to sustain a minimum wage job would need to work 80 hours per week to sustainably live in this area? Are you aware that at least 1 in 14 people in Chester County is food insecure, meaning that they lack reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food? Check out the Food Bank’s website or “like” the Food Bank on Facebook for community facts, promotions and donation and volunteer opportunities.
  • Donate. It’s no surprise that it takes time and money to help our neighbors. Every little bit helps. Donate today!

As you can see, there are many layers of the Chester County Food Bank. Fortunately, because of neighbors like you the Food Bank can continue to make a difference in our community by providing assistance for individuals and families in need. Want to learn more? Schedule a tour or request a speaker for your next community or corporate meeting.

The Chester County Food Bank is located at 650 Pennsylvania Dr. in Exton; phone: (610) 873-6000.

The Power of a Neighbor: Wegmans’ “Check Out for Hunger” Campaign for the Chester County Food Bank

Jose Frazer is modest about his role in the process to end hunger in Chester County. As an 11-year employee of Wegmans Food Markets, Jose, area service manager, beams, “I love working for Wegmans. Coming from the restaurant business, I started in the cheese department here. This company provides so much of a positive environment—not only for the employees, but also in their commitment and hands-on involvement in the local community as well.”

Celebrating 100 years as a family-owned company this year, the Wegmans Downingtown and Malvern stores recently presented the Chester County Food Bank with a check for $120,367 and a truckload of nearly 18,000 pounds of nonperishable food as a result of the “Check Out for Hunger” campaign, which ran from October through December 2015.

As part of the campaign, both customers and employees contributed single-digit monetary donations at checkout. “Of course we provided the cashiers with incentives such as gift cards, dinner packages, coffee, tea and candy prizes—but we also shared videos and personal stories of how some of us were personally affected by hunger or food programs growing up,” shares Jose. “I grew up in Philadelphia. My own family sometimes relied on churches, food bank programs and valued neighbors to make ends meet. I’ve experienced firsthand knowing the value of a crucial partnership such as Wegmans and the Chester County Food Bank,” he added, bringing his point home.

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Jose continues with praise of the teams of cashiers “who went over and above with their dedication to get customers involved in the donation process.” Regionally, the Wegmans teams raised $41,730 more than last year, with the Downingtown and Malvern stores showing an increase in donations of over $28,000. Working with the Food Bank for the past five years, Jose explains, “The competition between stores is great because in the end it benefits the people who need it most.”

Additionally, the employees who raised the highest amounts were given the opportunity to help unload and organize 20 pallets of food, including canned soups, vegetables and fruit, peanut butter, canned tuna, cereal and juice, at the Food Bank’s Exton distribution center.

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Larry Welsch, executive director of the Food Bank, reflects, “When the Chester County Food Bank started operations in 2009, Wegmans was the friendly neighbor that stopped by with the welcome basket—well, more like a welcome truckload of food. They have been the neighbor that we can depend on. We have never taken their generosity for granted, and each year that we are the recipient of Check Out Hunger we are truly grateful beyond words. We are thankful to be one of the many food banks that Wegmans supports regionally with their corporate giving programs. In order to tackle food insecurity, we have to do it together.”

Anne Shuniak, community engagement and marketing manager, adds, “We also appreciate each and every employee who made this annual campaign a success. Jose is not only a manager who motivates—he’s an example of an individual who gets involved to make a difference. He truly gets what it means to have the support of good neighbors. His smile is contagious and his attitude an inspiration. I value our professional relationship immensely.”

These community partnerships are like the neighbors we come to depend on to hopefully one day end hunger. With the unending generous support of the Wegmans Food Market family, the Chester County Food Bank is one step closer to doing just that.

 

Chester County Food Bank Hits the Road with a Fresh New Look

It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s super trucks! The Chester County Food Bank is introducing three freshly designed “wrapped” box trucks, now plowing through the rolling hills and sweeping valleys of Chester County. Keep an eye out for these new vehicles in Oxford, Phoenixville, Kennett Square, West Chester and back to the home port at the Eagleview Campus in Exton.

“Many in our community don’t realize just how much ground we cover,” explains Anne Shuniak, community engagement & marketing manager. “We are ecstatic to get these trucks out on the road while getting our name, our image and our mission into the view of the neighborhoods we serve.”

The smart logo and crisp color scheme have been precisely orchestrated with Miller Designworks of Phoenixville in conjunction with a recently harvested brand campaign and website design for the food bank. The soft but succinct earth-toned scene on these rigs incorporates the bucolic landscape and farm-based feel, which illustrate the transport’s mission—not to mention the prominently displayed phone number and web address.

Two of the vehicles are Penske leased trucks, and one is a food bank owned “baby” truck—which the staff affectionately calls “Bandit.” All have been lovingly “wrapped” with new signage by Paramount Sign Company in Downingtown, each of which took about a day to complete. Anne, who met owner Rick Panczner at a local networking event, felt it was very important to “keep the design and execution process within the local community. It was a true local collaboration,” she punctuates.

Nick Popov, who’s been the food bank’s distribution manager for over five years, emphasizes, “Having three of these trucks is beneficial for the wide area we need to cover here in the county. We have fully licensed and trained drivers who know the ins and outs of traffic in this area.”

Asked what challenges he faces, Nick was quick to point out that “many of the pickup and dropoff locations don’t have loading docks, so it becomes somewhat difficult to find a safe location to park and do the food swap, but we have it down to a science.”

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The trucks are scheduled by Nick weekly out of the food bank’s warehouse to hit several of over 100 partner agencies, food cupboards, shelters and corporations, where they pick up and deliver seasonal cargo. The edibles are then prepped and packaged back at the kitchen in the food bank’s Eagleview Campus location by staff and a generous pool of volunteers to get distributed back out into the communities served.

There is enough real estate inside these harbingers of healthful sustenance to dole out over 2.5 million pounds of fresh produce and donated nonperishables a year to every nook and cranny in Chester County. Fuel is budgeted at just over $32,000 annually, and preventative maintenance for the two largest trucks is handled by the leasing company.

An additional cargo van is slated to be wrapped in March and will be used for quick stops at smaller farms like Pete’s Produce in Westtown or Sankanac CSA in Kimberton and in areas that may be difficult to reach with the larger vehicles.

The Chester County Food Bank, now in its sixth year of operation, has a mission of providing food to those in need in the county while focusing on the role that hunger plays in health, poverty and education.

Did you know that 1 in 14 residents of Chester County is hungry and lacks reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food? Thanks to the power of these trucks and the determination of the staff and volunteers of the Chester County Food Bank and the umbrella cupboards, agencies and organizations, the food bank hopes to improve the statistics.

The next time you see one of the new superhero trucks in your neighborhood, honk your horn and give a wave in support of this team effort to alleviate hunger in Chester County. That’s a wrap.

Photos: The Town Dish