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Author Archives: Dish Works

Meet the Community Partner: West Chester University Resource Pantry

At the Chester County Food Bank, our mission is to mobilize the community to ensure access to real, healthy food.  Although we have programs that focus on supporting children, families and senior citizens, the truth is that there are vulnerable people across all demographics.

A specific demographic that might not come to mind is college students. It’s a mistake to assume that just because someone got accepted into an institution of higher learning, he or she doesn’t have to worry about food. Yes, most colleges have meal plans, but there are many students — both traditional and non-traditional — who struggle to eat enough food each day. In fact, according to a 2017 study published by Temple University, 36 percent of college students disclosed some level of food insecurity.

One way that we’re working to address this problem is through our partnership with the West Chester University Resource Pantry. This on-campus resource, which opened in September 2016, aims to “eliminate barriers to degree completion for students with financial need by providing access to resources, while empowering students to learn independent living skills and achieve long-term stability,” according to its website. The WCU Resource Pantry is open to all enrolled undergraduate and graduate students, with no proof of income necessary. Students don’t need an appointment; they’re welcome to simply walk in during the hours of operation to look for nonperishable food, fresh produce from the campus gardens, personal care items, school supplies and winter and career clothing.

Kate Colyer, M.A., assistant director of Service-Learning and Volunteer Programs, is one of the key staff involved with the WCU Resource Pantry. She says that CCFB’s involvement has been invaluable for the establishment and growth of the pantry.

“Chester County Food Bank has been our strongest advocates,” she noted. “They were integral to engaging in conversations with my office and the Office of Financial Aid and some other community stakeholders before we opened. Now they allow us to come shopping at the Food Bank as often as we need to supplement our food item shelves.”

We’ve also helped the WCU Resource Pantry apply for AmeriCorps Vista grants, and members of our staff sit on the pantry’s advisory board. Kate says that she’s in contact with CCFB staff — like Claudia Rose-Muir, Direct Distribution & Procurement Manager, and Phoebe Kitson-Davis, Director of Agency & Community Partnerships — on a weekly basis. One instance of how we’ve helped problem-solve with the pantry is with inventory management.

“Inventory management and sourcing has a been a huge challenge for us because we are so new,” Kate explained. “CCFB has spent time on the phone and have come out to consult how to effectively lay out our spaces. They also helped us decided to purchase technology to manage our inventory.”

The inventory at the WCU Resource Pantry comes from a number of community partners, and whether it’s food, toilet paper, a nice blazer for job interviews or printer paper, the goal is to provide a comfortable, shame-free place where anyone can come to ask for help. Located in the ground level of a residence hall adjacent to the student health center, the Resource Pantry was recently renovated to improve the student experience even more.

“We’re increasing the dignity [of the experience] with shelves, lounge furniture, etc., that make it feel like real shopping,” Kate said. “We’re building relationships with our students. Once we have their trust, we ask them how they feel about the experience — and take their feedback.”

She notes that at first, the Resource Pantry staff was perhaps overly sensitive to diffusing the stigma that some students might feel in asking for help, and were extremely cautious to make sure there was ample confidentiality and the space was discreet. But, she says, they’ve learned that this made the space too hard to find, and have evolved to address that.

“The more that we’ve been open and transparent and trying to empower our students and help raise awareness, we’re helping to destigmatize the experience,” she said. “A lot of students seem more than happy to tell their peers that they shop here.”

Throughout the span of the 2017 academic school year, the Resource Pantry served 487 students. So far in 2018 (its third year in operation), the pantry has served 452 unique students, and has distributed nearly 6,000 pounds of food, 5,800 personal care products, more than 1,000 school supplies, 123 items of professional attire and 80 winter items. And that’s just between late August and late November of 2018! It’s clear that the Resource Pantry is addressing a real need on campus, and that as awareness grows, even more students will be able to find what they need to succeed in school — whether that’s food each week or a snack on a day they forgot their wallet.

We’re proud to support and work with this dynamic, innovative pantry. It’s just one more way that we’re fighting hunger in our community.

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: WCU Resource Pantry

Don’t Go Hungry: How to Get Help in Chester County

Finding yourself in a position of food insecurity can happen anytime. It’s not pleasant to think about, but an injury, layoff from work, family illness or another unforeseen change can drastically affect your circumstances.

This scenario understandably makes many people feel vulnerable and overwhelmed, and figuring out how and where to ask for help can be a challenge. If you don’t know where to turn, we’re here to help. Chester County Food Bank has made it our mission to help our neighbors in need combat food insecurity by connecting them with programs and resources across the county that can be of assistance. From our Weekend Backpack Program for school-aged children to our Senior Food Boxes, our staff and team of dedicated volunteers work tirelessly to make sure that no one in our community is overlooked.

First, see if you fall within the footprint of our region by visiting the Need Food (blue) button in the upper right of our website. There is an interactive map that illustrates our impact across Chester County. You can look for your community and find a food pantry and hot meal sites. There’s a difference between a food bank, like we are, and the food pantries that actually send clients home with food. So while we aren’t a pick-up site for food, we can connect you with 1 of the 120 local agencies we work with where that service is available. If you’d prefer to speak with someone on the phone, call us at (610) 873-6000 and we’ll help you identify a hunger relief agency that serves your part of town. We also have staff members that speak Spanish.

Once you find a food pantry or cupboard close to your home (usually based on school district lines), you’ll need to gather a few materials to sign up.

To qualify at a food cupboard, a client must:

  • Provide name, date of birth and proof of address.
  • Report total household income (this is a self declaration based on 150 percent of poverty line).

Learn more about this process here.

Outside of food cupboards, there are a number of social service organizations throughout Chester County. Get more info at our Community Partners page about the ways the agencies we work with can help to provide food, shelter, childcare, counseling and other services.

If you do need help beyond food, it’s easy to find human and social service resources in your neighborhood by calling or visiting 2-1-1, a regional social services hotline. To call, simply dial 2-1-1 or (866) 964-7922; the line is open 7 days a week from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., and interpreter services are available in more than 140 languages. During this free, confidential call, you’ll be connected with a 2-1-1 Southeastern Pennsylvania information and referral specialist. For assistance in finding social services such as health, basic needs, mental health and drug and alcohol treatment, review the Department of Human Services Community Resource Guide.

We hope this has been a helpful resource for anyone looking for ways to get help. Feel free to call Chester County Food Bank anytime during our operating hours (Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.) with questions or for further assistance.

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

Featured photo: Bigstock; all other photos: Chester County Food Bank

Meet the Community Partner: Wegmans

The Chester County Food Bank is largely able to accomplish its goal of combating food insecurity in our communities thanks to donations from generous individuals, the dedication of our volunteers and our amazing staff. Additionally, there are some larger organizations and companies whose continued support has given us significant boosts to achieve the goals set forth in our mission.

One of these companies is Wegmans, a chain of family-owned grocery stores located across the East Coast. Community involvement is a big part of the Wegmans brand, and we are very fortunate to have developed a strong relationship with two of its Chester County locations.

Through various initiatives, the Downingtown Wegmans and Malvern Wegmans together have donated more than three-quarters of a million dollars ($736,702 to be exact!) to the Chester County Food Bank since 2010.

Anne Shuniak, CCFB’s marketing and communications manager, says, “Wegmans is our most dedicated grocery store partner, contributing time, talent and treasure.”

Each year from October through December, Wegmans hosts the Care About Hunger (also called Check Out Hunger or Food2Feed, regionally) campaign across its stores. This initiative encourages customers and employees to contribute single-digit monetary donations at checkout, and is a great example of how small measures can really add up. Because Wegmans is such a high-volume grocery store, even $1 or $5 donations can add up to an amazing number if enough people get on board. Last year, Wegmans presented CCFB with a check for $152,793 at the end of the campaign!

 

This year’s Care About Hunger campaign kicked off October 22 and will run through December 23. The Downingtown and Malvern stores have set a lofty goal to beat last year’s number, and believe that if people work together, they can accomplish anything they put their minds to.

In addition to the Care About Hunger program, Wegmans donates a tractor trailer full of food at least once a year and volunteers with us throughout the year. We also have a partnership with the Wegmans Culinary Team, who helps prepare meals for our Emergency Response Program.

So much of this strong partnership between Wegmans and CCFB is thanks to Jose Frazer, an area service manager with Wegmans, who has been committed to us since the beginning. In October 2017 Jose took his support of CCFB to the next level and joined our board of directors.

“The cool thing is that the Food Bank and Wegmans share the same values,” said Frazer. “Ultimately, my success at Wegmans is because I have those values, too—helping out the community, community service and just helping other people—that’s what we do. We want to make sure people are healthy, have work/life balance … for me, being on the Food Bank board just brings it full circle.”

We are so thankful for Jose’s and Wegmans’ continued dedication to our friends and neighbors in need in Chester County!

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, healthful food.

Emily Kovach

Photos, top to bottom: Chester County Food Bank (first two photos); Ed Williams

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

5 Simple Side Dish Recipes for the Holidays

When you’re thinking about, working with and helping others get access to food as often as we are at Chester County Food Bank, it’s impossible to ignore the significance that the holidays can have for our neighbors in need. For many families in Chester County, even if they can get by week to week, the big, festive meals that for many of us are a time of joy can present lots of extra stress.

Our partnerships with local food pantries and our ongoing programs like our Senior Food Boxes, which provide nutritious ingredients to nearly 800 seniors in our region, help to ease the burden for families during the holidays and all year long.

As we round the corner to the winter holidays ahead, we wanted to remind you that preparing food for special gatherings doesn’t have to be an overwrought or expensive undertaking. Even if you love to cook, it can be hard to eke out the time or spend extra on specialty ingredients at the market. And while we all love to tuck into our favorite comfort foods around the holiday table, extravagance is not what these holidays are about. They are about togetherness, love and gratitude.

One of the things that we’re grateful for is that our favorite holiday side dishes require little more than a few veggies, a handful of herbs, a splash of milk or broth and a good recipe to guide the way. Here are five recipes for simple, affordable and nutritious holiday classics that you can bring to the table this year:

Sweet Potato Hummus: This recipe from Food & Wine puts a new spin on sweet potatoes, one of the most wallet-friendly, nutrient-dense root veggies around. For far less than the cost of prepared hummus, you can make a giant batch of this creamy, mild dip to serve before the meal with crackers and baby carrots. Bonus points for the canned chickpeas, which add a huge boost of protein to this crowd-pleasing appetizer.

Massaged Kale Salad: Though it used to be a bit more of a “health food” staple, kale has risen through the ranks of the food world to become a mainstream veggie. And we’re glad for it, too: Our farm-grown kale is bursting with vitamins and minerals. This recipe from Eating Well keeps it exceedingly simple: A quick massage with olive oil tames the kale’s crunchy texture, and garlicky lemon dressing will have guests reaching for seconds.

Classic Herb Stuffing: Stuffing can be one of the worst holiday culprits in terms of being overly complicated (think oysters, raisins, sausage and so on) and also one of the most calorie-laden. That’s why we appreciate this no-nonsense (but oh-so-delicious) classic stuffing from Cooking Light. Whole grain bread, just a few veggies and herbs, chicken stock, eggs and butter are all you need to whip up this craveable carb.

Green Beans with Brown Butter: Brown butter is an amazing kitchen hack to add to your arsenal. Just a few moments over gentle heat transforms regular butter into a fragrant, nutty, rich sauce that elevates everything from oatmeal to ravioli. It takes green beans from standard to stellar in this three-step recipe from the fuss-free cooking pros at Real Simple.

The World’s Easiest Cranberry Sauce: No holiday meal is complete without a dish of bright, zesty cranberry sauce on the table! Skip the jellied, jarred stuff and try this recipe from the acclaimed food blog Serious Eats, which uses fresh cranberries from the acclaimed food and claims to be the world’s easiest version! The fresh fruit means a whopping dose of vitamin C and tons of juicy, tart flavor.

What are your favorite holiday dishes that are both economic and a snap to make? Let us know! Check out our resource of recipes including those featured with our Fresh2You Mobile Market weekly recipe bundles.

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

Featured photo: Chester County Food Bank; all other photos: Pexels

Coordinating a Local Food Drive: The Power of One and the Power of Many

The communities of bucolic Chester County are well known for stepping up to the plate when needed—and we need your assistance now more than ever. Many of our neighbors struggle with basic needs all year long, and as the weather begins to turn colder and the holidays approach, we once again need you to rally around to make life easier and to provide for those who might be in less fortunate situations.

At the Chester County Food Bank, we often hear that people think they don’t have the resources or the power to pull off a food drive of any caliber. Perhaps they believe it will require too much of their time. Or, they don’t know exactly which food items to include. Or that they can’t possibly put a dent in the amount of food required.

We invite you to take a look at the following two valuable examples of people working in conjunction with the Chester County Food Bank to coordinate and execute powerful food drives. These are your neighbors, businesses and friends taking the time to make a measurable impact with little effort.

The Power of One

Nate Hyson realized at the young age of 6 that there were others less fortunate than he. He began by building a donation box, placing it in his neighborhood. He soon collected $30. He explains, “I made a collection box out of Magformers (a construction toy) and decided that the money I collected would go to feed babies. We brought the baby food purchased to a women’s shelter and then I decided I wanted to go bigger.”

Now, at 12 years old, he is the founder of the Baby Food Fund of Chester County. Infants are the focus because “they can’t help themselves,” Nate says with determination.

Nate and his mom, Sarah, provide everything required to collect items for infants in West Bradford Elementary School. “It only takes me a total of five or six hours to coordinate with the principal to pick a date, send out flyers through the school, bring collection bins to the school, and then stop by periodically throughout the drive to pick up food,” says Sarah.

Since its inception, Baby Food Fund has donated more than 250 pounds of baby food. The results are rewarding, notes Nate. When asked what inspires him to run the food drive and what personal rewards he gets from doing this, Nate states simply, “It’s an easy way to help other people, and there are people who really need the food. It makes me feel nice to deliver baby food to Chester County Food Bank, knowing that I’m helping babies get a good start in life.” Way to go, Nate!

The Power of Many

The Diwali Food Drive was initiated in 2012 by the residents of the Byers Station community in Chester Springs. Inspired by the five-day good-over-evil spirit of Diwali—the Festival of Light, this food drive is one of the largest community-hosted drives, with over 150,000 pounds of food donated to date.

As part of the Diwali festival, participants serve and feed the poor and needy. As noted on the Diwali Facebook page, “It’s important that our communities inculcate this very humane trait into our next generations during the festival season and channel our energies and resources for the benefit of people who need the most in the form of food to create a sense of shared development by encouraging our children to organize and participate in food drives throughout the United States of America.”

Through tradition, word-of-mouth and community Facebook pages, these dedicated neighbors continue to rally by going door to door, providing centralized food drop-off and pick-up locations and partnering with local businesses to generate this massive effort.

 

The Diwali Food Drive has grown to 10 communities throughout Chester County including: Byers Station, Malvern Hunt, the Reserve at Eagle Hunt, Windsor Ridge, Bell Tavern, Applecross, the Reserve at Waynebrook, the Reserve at Eagle Village, Whiteland Woods, the Reserve at Chestnut Ridge. The 2017 drive generated a record 54,000 pounds of cereal, juice, and canned goods.

 

 

Get involved now. Be the change you want to see. Donate timefood or cash or call us at (610) 873-6000 and learn how you can make a difference in Chester County.

Sign up for our in-depth newsletter and be sure to follow us on FacebookTwitter and Instagram for up-to-the-minute information.

The Chester County Food Bank is nonprofit and the central hunger relief organization serving more than 120 partner agencies in Chester County, Pa. Through our network of food cupboardshot meal sites, shelters and other social service organizations, we distribute 2.9 million pounds to our neighbors with limited or uncertain access to adequate food. We also take a steadfast approach to provide food and build support in the neediest communities, while raising awareness and engagement among our community. Visit our Nutrition Education page to learn about how our programs are making inroads in the fight against hunger. We are located at 650 Pennsylvania Dr., Exton, Pa. 19341.

Ed Williams

Photos of Nate by Sarah Hyson; remaining photos by Ed Williams and Chester County Food Bank

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in November 2016 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness. 

Meet the Team: Amy Rossman and Chef Ranney Moran of FRESHstart Kitchen

We’re so excited to introduce you two Chester County Food Bank team members, Amy Rossman and chef Ranney Moran, both of whom are instrumental in our brand-new program FRESHstart Kitchen™ (FRESH is an acronym that stands for Focusing Resources on Employment, Self-Sufficiency and Health). FRESHstart Kitchen is a culinary workforce training and development initiative and launched its inaugural class on September 10, 2018.

FRESHstart’s mission is to assist people from our communities who have limited work experience, modest academic skills and other barriers to steady employment, including substance abuse and criminal records. Throughout the 5-days-per-week, 14-week program, participants will gain life skills, self-awareness, professional development and hands-on culinary training, all with the goal to help them successfully enter or reenter the workforce.

This ambitious and important program would not be possible without the two employees at its helm. Here’s a bit more about Amy and Ranney.

Amy Rossman, Workforce Development Manager

Amy Rossman came to us from a Community Connections program in Montgomery County; before that, she worked for eight years at the Pottstown Cluster of Religious Communities, a food pantry and clothing closet. During that time, she worked with low- to no-income people in her community, and over the years worked her way up to second in command. “I had an opportunity to help people in economic poverty achieve awareness about resources in the community and to empower the people coming into the food pantry to recognize and affirm who they are as people,” she said.

Amy originally came to CCFB to interview for a different position, but as soon as she heard about the workforce development manager position, she knew that job was perfect for her skill set and interests. She started at CCFB in late June 2018. A major part of Amy’s job is running the responsibility and self-empowerment workshops for the FRESHstart participants. “What gets me excited is working with people and really listening to what their journey has been and where they want to be,” she said. “Often when people are living in economic poverty, their voices are not heard, and we can’t learn from them. [I want to help] facilitate all of those moving pieces and the direction in which they want to go, and affirm that journey for them.”

The workshops take place in the morning, and during that time, Amy helps the participants to focus on skills like mock interviewing, creating a resume and cover letter, setting expectations for going out into the job field and journaling to process the lessons and events of the day. The last two weeks of the course are almost entirely devoted to workforce development, as the participants will be just about ready to launch their new careers. Also, Amy points out, once the program wraps up, the participants aren’t left to fend for themselves. “We’ll follow folks for up to two years to track them and see how they’re doing.”

People who are interested in the FRESHstart program may reach out directly to Amy at (610) 873-6000, ext.127. The application process requires completing the application, sending in additional materials like a photo ID and a letter, recommendation or referral and completing an interview and then a two-day trial in CCFB’s kitchen.

Chef Ranney Moran, Director of Culinary Programs

Ranney Moran studied at The French Culinary Institute (now called the International Culinary Center) in New York City, where he graduated in 2012. He worked in Manhattan kitchens for a few years before embarking in 2014 on a 6-month excursion through Southeast Asia, including stops in Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, Laos and China. Much of that time was spent traveling and eating, though he got some work in, too, running a pop-up restaurant in Bangkok for a few weeks.

After returning to America, he worked in the Hamptons at The Surf Lodge and then in Woodstock, New York, at The Bear Cafe and Commune Saloon. It was during that time that he first considered the concept of a culinary training program. “Because of the opioid epidemic and rampant addiction in the hospitality industry, I had a really hard time finding qualified staff in Woodstock,” Ranney remembered. “I wanted to use the kitchen as an opportunity not to fire people, but to promote them.” He promoted his dishwasher to prep cook and his prep cook to sous chef, and found that extra attention and responsibility, plus wraparound support like NA meetings, helped people recovering from addiction to maintain sobriety.

During the winter of 2016, when the tourist season died down in Woodstock, Ranney moved back to Philadelphia, where he is originally from. He worked for a bit as a personal chef for some families in Chester County, and in his free time, started volunteering in the kitchen at CCFB. During this time, he’d investigated trying to start a culinary workforce training program, but ran into some barriers, like funding and finding wraparound support. He continued to do research, sometimes traveling to visiting other organizations with similar programs and collecting data. Through his volunteer experience at CCFB, he learned that this exact type of program was part of CCFB’s future growth goals.

“It was the lightbulb moment,” he said. “I saw a great opportunity to create more meals and serve more people. The program has so much personal meaning for me — it’s everything I’ve really ever dreamed of.”

He presented his collected data and research to some of the CCFB in the beginning of 2018, and was hired that February. In the time since then and the program’s September launch, Ranney and some other staffers have visited other programs, like Rhode Island Community Food Bank and DC Central Kitchen, components of which are used as models for FRESHstart Kitchen. Ranney also worked to recruit people for the first FRESHstart cohort, putting up flyers all over the county and meeting with United Way at the Financial Literacy Center, while Amy gave presentations to regional networks. They were able to find 5 suitable applicants to be part of the first FRESHstart group, though they hope to grow it closer to 10 in the future.

Chef Ranney’s day with the students involves a ServSafe Manager course (a food safety certification), culinary theory, recipe reviews, technique discussions and tutorials and daily hands-on work in the kitchen, where each student has their own station with their own burner. “The first thing we cover is the mise en place, which is your clean uniform, your sharp knife, all your ingredients cut the way it needs to be and your station clean and organized,” he explained.

The culinary curriculum covers everything from basic knife skills and hygiene to kitchen safety. Each week revolves around a theme, such as breakfast cookery, stocks, soups and sauces, poultry, fish and meats. Ranney and another chef instructor demonstrate techniques and plating and by the end of each day, each student is expected to be able to put together the same dish.

Weeks 10, 11 and 12 of the program are for internship placements, and Ranney is establishing relationships and partnerships with area restaurants, grocery stores, fish markets and butcher shops, fast casual cafes and large food producers. “Building a network of industry partners, I want to be able to present the students with a list of options,” he said. He says his main hope for the program grads is for them to earn a $15 minimum wage. “I’m hoping they’ll be able to find a job at that level,” he asserted. “I want them to be able advocate for themselves, to know their value and worth.”

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

Meet the Team: Solange Noguera

From maintaining our warehouse to managing our partner farm sites, we rely on our dedicated staff for everything we do at Chester County Food Bank. We would never be able to reach as many of our neighbors in need, and keep everything running smoothly and efficiently, without them!

As the county population continues to grow, we’ve added people to our team staff who can help us connect to and communicate with all of the people that we serve. One of these people is Solange Noguera (she goes by Sol), our bilingual outreach educator, who is instrumental to our work with the Spanish-speaking communities in the county.

Sol began working for CCFB in May 2018. Prior to CCFB, she was a teller at a local federal credit union. She is happy with the career change, and says it’s hard to pick just one thing that she loves about her job at the Food Bank.

“Working for CCFB has been a complete 180 from my other jobs,” she said. “The biggest difference is that I’m actually making a difference in people’s lives. I’m looking out and keeping the communities’ interest in mind, whereas with my other jobs, I was working to help a company or companies that I really did not care about.”

The position, which works with several of CCFB’s programs and initiatives (including Fresh2You and the Fruit and Vegetable Prescription Program), does include its own set of challenges.

“The challenging aspect of the job is remembering that I am one person and can’t take on a lot of projects,” Sol admitted. “I would love to be able to be in multiple places and do multiple things at once, but I still haven’t figured out how to do that. So for now, I have to focus and give my best to the things I am involved with.”

Through her work with us, CCFB has been able to better accommodate the needs of the Hispanic/Latino population in Chester County, as well as build better relationships with them.

“The amazing part is that there is still so much more room to grow, and I am super excited to be a small part of it,” Sol said.

In the future, Sol anticipates reaching an even bigger immigrant population and setting up programs that will allow them to grow and feel part of the Chester County community.

“I also envision that we will be able to incorporate many more members of the community into our classes and programs (as trainers or facilitators), so that the community is giving back to the community,” she noted.

Outside of work, Sol, who lives in Malvern, enjoys outdoor activities, like hiking the many trails through Chester County, as well as biking and swimming. She also likes being in the kitchen.

“I really enjoy cooking and incorporating veggies I have never used in my plates,” she said. “Most of all, I enjoy doing all these things with family and friends.”

We are grateful to have Sol as a part of the Chester County Food Bank staff, and for her enthusiasm, passion and community-centered mindset. Thanks for being part of our team, Sol!

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, top to bottom: Chester County Food Bank; Chester County Intermediate Unit; Chester County Food Bank

Meet the Community Partner: La Comunidad Hispana

Here at the Chester County Food Bank, our mission is to end food insecurity in the communities in our county. It’s an ambitious goal — the problem of hunger is a complex one, touching on economics, access to food, nutrition and cooking education, advocacy, legislative policy and so much more. While our organization is going nine years strong and has accomplished so much during that time, we definitely can’t tackle these issues alone. It’s thanks to our strong bonds and relationships with community partners that we’re able to continue reaching our neighbors in need in effective, sustainable ways.

One such community partner is La Comunidad Hispana (LCH), a diverse, bilingual Federally Qualified Health Center in southern Chester County. Its mission is to “change lives by serving southern Chester County as the leading provider of integrated health and community services.” Founded in 1973 by Peggy Harris and Margarita Quiñones with the support of Kennett Square residents, clergy and advocates, LCH set forth to serve the needs of the primarily Latino population who came to the region to find jobs in the mushroom industry. LCH was established as a place where vulnerable adults and families could go for health and medical issues large and small.

Now, more than 40 years later, the committed, passionate team at LCH continues this mission at various sites: its Health and Community Services office and Dental Center in Kennett Square, its Community Health Center in Oxford and its brand-new Women’s Health Center in West Grove. The Women’s Health Center is an exciting new development for LCH; all of its women’s health services will be provided out of this office, and with an additional provider added to the staff, the organization will be able to serve more women than ever.

CCFB’s relationship with LCH began about five years ago, when we started our EatFresh program. During that time, we sought organizations to partner with, specifically health clinics in the county.

“LCH was one of those, and the idea was that they were connecting with food-insecure families whom we believed we could teach some basic healthy cooking options to and also be able to give them some fresh produce at the end of each class,” said Wendy Gaynor, director of Food Security Initiatives at Chester County Food Bank. “It turns out that the people [served by LCH] have a wealth of knowledge surrounding cooking, so what we’re now doing is building community. They’re coming for the produce, for the connection and to have an experience together. They get to come together with other people and enjoy good food.”

We’re still working with LCH on EatFresh, and are pleased to announce that we’re extending our partnership with them to offer the Fruit & Vegetable Prescription (FVRx) program to some of the families there. Families are identified through the clinic and are given “prescriptions,” which are like vouchers that can be redeemed for fresh produce at CCFB’s Fresh2You Truck.

These components of our partnership exemplify just what makes LCH so special. It’s not simply there to administer medical treatment and services — aims to serve the holistic health of the families and individuals it serves. One example of this is LCH’s Family Fitness Program. It piloted this program two years ago, with the support of the Edna G. Kynett Memorial Foundation, and has been such a success, LCH decided to continue it.

“The goal of the program is to provide intensive health interventions for families with children at risk of chronic disease (such as heart disease and diabetes), based on overweight/obese status,” explained LeeAnn Riloff, director of Development at LCH. “We enroll the entire family into the program and over the course of a year, offer them regular clinical check-ins, health education, consultation with a nutritionist, free healthy food bags and fitness equipment and deeply discounted family YMCA memberships.” The families also receive access to LCH’s special programs, including walking/running groups and the FVRx partnership with CCFB. LCH also hosts three raised beds that are part of our Raised Bed Garden Program — these help to supplement the fresh produce CCFB brings to on-site EatFresh classes.

“These food bank programs are critical elements of the program for us,” said LeeAnn. “Our nutritionist can give families advice to eat lots of fruits and vegetables instead of loads of empty carbs, but unless they can access the produce and know how to use it, it isn’t all that useful!”

La Comunidad Hispana is just one of the many community partners we work with, and is such an important resource for the communities of southern Chester County. To learn more about its mission, visit its website and Facebook page.

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

Featured photo: La Comunidad Hispana; all other photos, top to bottom: La Comunidad Hispana, Chester County Food Bank (next two photos), La Comunidad Hispana

Be a Good Neighbor: Keep Your Giving Local

The past decade has seen an amazing cultural shift in terms of consumer behavior: the trend of buying local. What began as a philosophy has blossomed into an organized, intentional way of small companies marketing their wares, and of communities supporting their own microeconomies. Perhaps you’ve seen the Buy Fresh Buy Local logo on various Pennsylvania-grown or -made products or produce from the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture. This is just one example of how the local food movement has become promoted in mainstream food systems.

Even if you can’t buy everything “local,” we’ll bet you enjoy perusing your community’s farmers markets for peak-season produce and chatting with the folks who grew it. Isn’t it nice to be able to ask the farmer how often she sprays her orchards, or the gent selling mushrooms how to best use exotic king trumpet mushrooms? Shopping local isn’t just about getting higher-quality goods and keeping your carbon footprint lower — in addition to those benefits, it provides a sense of connection, breaking through the walls that stand between the consumer and the producer when you shop at big box stores and supermarkets.

So if you love to shop local, why not keep your charitable giving local as well? We understand that, especially these days, most of us are inundated with donation requests — some for causes that reach around the world. And while we recognize the important of many of these l initiatives, if you care about keeping your dollars in Chester County, we encourage you to keep your giving local.

By donating to Chester County Food Bank, either by giving money, participating in food drives or sharing your time as a volunteer, you’re helping to strengthen your very own community. Instead of donating money to an organization where you’ll never see the outcome or results, investing in CCFB and our mission yields results that you can see for yourself all year long. Perhaps you come to our annual Open House to see our facilities and meet our dedicated staff and volunteers. You can see our trucks out on local roads, coming back from a produce auction or distributing food from our warehouse to one of our many member agencies. There may be kids in your child’s classroom who receive weekend backpacks so they’re not hungry over the weekends, or senior citizens living on your block whom we help to feed with food boxes or Meals on Wheels. Or maybe your church or community center is a host to garden plots that are part of our popular Raised Bed Garden Program, which yields more than 40,000 pounds of fresh food each year to help give our neighbors in need nutritious and delicious produce to enjoy.

All around us, in our own cities and towns in Chester County, are the visible fruits of our labor and the outcomes of our donors’ generosity. If you want to experience the satisfaction of thinking globally but donating locally, consider making a gift to Chester County Food Bank today! No amount is too small (head here to see all the things $20 can do at CCFB), and donations can also be made monthly or in someone’s memory or honor.

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

Featured photo: Bigstock; all other photos: Chester County Food Bank

Feeding Families: Local Partnership Strengthens Summer Food Box Program

As we’ve shared before, when school is out, so are free school lunch programs, a resource that many children and families in our community rely on during the academic year.

Although the summer, for many of us, is a time of abundance when it comes to food — think CSAs in full swing, barbecues and parties booking up most weekends, and new restaurants opening with growing frequency — it is a time of scarcity for so many of our neighbors in need.

Chester County Food Bank has worked to address this issue with our Summer Food Box program, which helps school-age children and their families receive nutritious, easy-to-prepare, nonperishable food during the summer vacation months through their participating member agency or youth center. Packed by volunteers, these boxes make a huge difference in the lives of some of the most vulnerable in the county. The way it works is that one box is available for each school-age child in each family and the pick-up times during the summer occur once in July and once in August. The boxes contain all sorts of nonperishable foods such as canned tuna and chicken, milk, cereal, oatmeal packets, fruit, granola bars, pasta, rice, beans, canned fruit and spaghetti sauce.

This summer, we’ve gone even further to provide aid to food-insecure families in our area. By partnering with The Coatesville Youth Initiative (CYI), our Summer Food Box program is stronger than ever. Thanks to generous support from Enterprise, we’re working with CYI, an independent nonprofit working to enact youth-led community change, to provide a cohesive approach to addressing food insecurity, workforce development, youth engagement and community outreach. And after identifying high needs among Chester County’s Hispanic population, we’ve linked with a Migrant Education Program in Jennersville to receive distributions throughout the summer. This will enable us to serve 500 additional students throughout the summer months.

The CYI does so much to help break the cycle of economic inequality: It trains youth leaders, enhances family relationships, encourages prevention education and builds community collaboration. One of its main programs is ServiceCorps, an eight-week summer service/leadership development program for Coatesville-area youth. Now in its ninth year, the program empowers participants to serve and connect with their communities and build life/leadership skills, all while earning summer income.

This summer, four ServiceCorps participants between the ages of 16 and 18 were hired to serve as site coordinators and administer our Summer Food Box program. We saw this as a great opportunity, not just for the participants who receive training and oversight from our staff, but also for us — we utilized the teens’ input on how to best reach and promote the feeding program among other youth with whom we wouldn’t usually have contact. After all, no one can influence a teenager quite like one of their peers, and this strategy will help us reduce and eliminate the stigma of receiving food in these contexts. The ServiceCorps participants have been collecting data, helping to coordinate deliveries and spreading the word to create awareness around our programming. The outcome of this synergy is already apparent, as we have begun to effectively increase reach in this vulnerable community, including newly established “Produce Hubs” that reach youth where they are, like churches and summer camps.

This situation is a resounding “win-win-win” for the ServiceCorps team, Chester County Food Bank outreach and the residents of Coatesville!

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