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Author Archives: Dish Works

Better Together: Peanut Butter & Jelly Community Food Drive

When we think of kids in summertime, many of us conjure images of children splashing in pools, playing sports at camps, having sleepovers with friends or racing against the sun’s heat to enjoy an ice cream cone before it melts.

But for many children, in our neighborhoods and beyond, these idyllic scenes are far from reality. In fact, for more than 18,000 students in Chester County, school’s being out of session means that the only meal they can be certain of—school lunch—is no longer a constant they can count on. Also, many kids who aren’t old enough to cook something safely for themselves are left home alone. Peanut butter and jelly isn’t just for kids, but families and seniors also rely on this pantry staple.

That’s why the Chester County Food Bank is once again hosting its Better Together: PB&J Community Food Drive to help fill the shelves of neighbors in need with a crowd-pleasing food: peanut butter and jelly! This classic sandwich is a good source of protein, and is also easy for school-age kids to make for themselves without risk of cuts or burns.

We’ll be gathering the supplies we need to keep our agencies stocked all summer long at our Fifth Annual Peanut Butter & Jelly Food Drive and Community Weigh-In.

Here’s how it works:

  1. To participate in the PB&J Drive, first assemble a team. This can be neighbors, co-workers, school groups, family—anyone!
  2. Begin collecting donations of any brand or type of peanut butter, almond or alternative nut butter, jelly or jam. We ask that items have NO high fructose corn syrup and no trans fats. To avoid breakage, we ask for plastic jars instead of glass. Also, no expired or homemade items or pre-made sandwiches, please.
  3. Weigh in! On Friday, June 7, from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m (new time this year), bring all of your donations to the Chester County Food Bank in Exton for the Community Weigh-In event! If you’ve never been to the Food Bank this is also a great time to get a tour and learn more about us.

We’ve had such an amazing response to this community food drive. Since it’s inception the PB&J Drive has brought in over 35 TONS of peanut butter and jelly. We are BETTER TOGETHER.  Will you join us?

For more info on the PB&J drive, check out the event flyer or email food@chestercountyfoodbank.org. Check out our Food Drive Tool Kit for printable flyers and details. If you’re unable to participate directly in the drive, please consider making a financial donation. Because CCFB can buy the food our clients need in bulk, we can stretch your dollars further to purchase even more of this important pantry staple with your generous donation.

 

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. Reach us at 610-873-6000. 

Emily Kovach

 

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in May 2018 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

Chester County Food Bank’s Sustained Commitment to Nutrition

When it comes to food and dietary choices, many of us have learned that it’s more about quality than quantity. But for many of our neighbors in Chester County, it’s really about both. Quantity — that is, simply enough food on the table, day after day — is the primary struggle for many families and individuals facing food insecurity. When meals are unpredictable or scarce, quality often isn’t even a luxury that can be factored into the equation.

Here at the Chester County Food Bank, we’re aiming to change that. No matter where people are getting their food from, we believe they shouldn’t have to sacrifice nutrition and quality when it comes to the food they’re putting into their bodies.

For many years, we haven’t accepted soda and other sweetened beverages or candy donations in large quantities, and have also worked nonstop to find innovative ways to provide fresh food to our clients via our Fresh2You Mobile Market, the Fresh2You Fruit & Vegetable Prescription (FVRx) program, Taste It! and Eat Fresh educational platforms, Raised Bed Garden Program and more.


“There is a ton of scientific research and proof that diet-related diseases disproportionately affect people in economically challenged areas,” Denise Sheehan, Director of Strategic Initiatives explained. “Our goal at the Food Bank is to not add to that problem, and to expand access to what people on a limited income can afford.”

During our recently conducted community food security assessment, we gathered feedback from over 1,000 of our food pantry members through surveys and focus groups. We received an overwhelming response that pantry members are concerned about their health and the most important foods when coming to the pantry are fresh produce, quality protein and healthy dairy items. So over the course of the next few years, our goal is to provide more of these items, which can often be higher in price, and so out of reach for many people. Then, with those items taken care of, our clients can readjust their food budgets and have more to spend on items of their choosing to fill in around what we provide.

“For instance,” Sheehan said, “we’re hopefully going to distribute less of the highly processed canned items which are typically loaded with high fructose corn syrup added sugar and sodium and replace them with the simple ingredients and recipes.”

To start, CCFB is going to monitor the foods that we purchase with donated dollars and government funds more closely to be sure they’re as nutritionally impactful as possible while also meeting our clients’ expressed needs. Of course, we still want to provide like cereals (low in added sugar), fruit in juice, and canned proteins like tuna, chicken and beans, but are going to pass by options that include high fructose corn syrup, partially hydrogenated oil (trans fat) and excessive added sugars. (As far as food drives and donations are concerned, we are still happy to receive items from our most wanted food items list)


We’re excited to embark on this next step of our journey to help fight hunger and food insecurity in Chester County. If you have any questions about our commitment to nutrition, please don’t hesitate to reach out and ask!

Want to learn more? 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

 

“Heat or Eat”: Some Neighbors Have to Make This Difficult Choice

 

 

The blustery days of winter have arrived in force. We are seeing record setting lows in temperatures. Unfortunately, as the chill of winter blasts through the hills and towns of Chester County, our communities are still in desperate need. Hunger knows no season.

Those less fortunate still require heat and hot water and other social services, in addition to food. The effects of the government shutdown may be impacting individuals and families who may have never experienced food insecurity.  People in our community, unfortunately, may have to decide whether to pay a utility bill or cut drastically into their food supply. Heat or Eat… what would you choose? Government assistance isn’t always an option. An individual can make $18,210 or less to qualify for government food programs. This is where we help. There is no need to choose between paying for heat or choosing to eat. Our neighbors depend on our donations to make ends meet all year long.

As we sit by the fire, sipping hot chocolate while watching the snow gently fall, why not take advantage of winters “down time” and consider donating in one (or more) ways. Your donations are always welcome and valuable to the Chester County Food Bank and we appreciate everything you do all year long.

Types of donations:

  • Food. Take advantage of winter sales at local supermarkets. Picking up a few extra non-perishables while shopping for yourself or your family is an easy way to be involved with little effort.
  • Food drives. Conducting a neighborhood or corporate food drive takes very little time. Look at these examples of local inspiring folks who did just that.
  • Volunteer. Come out of winter hibernation and join other members of our community to sort, pack and help with food distribution indoors. A few hours is all we need. Sign up here.
  • Monetary donations. Too frigid out? Bad roads? A simple click here will send your donation directly to us, where 85 percent of all monetary donations go directly to program costs. Make it easy with a monthly donation or choose a tribute gift for someone special.  Any amount makes an impact.


Join other donors and help us continue our mission to mobilize the community to ensure access to real, healthy food.

 

 

 

Want to learn more? Sign up for our newsletter and stay connected. Are you or someone you know interested in prepared ready to eat meals? Learn more about our Simple Suppers and partnership with Meals on Wheels of Chester County.

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 take a steadfast approach to provide food and build support in the neediest communities, while raising awareness and engagement among our community.

Ed Williams

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

Get to Know the Chester County Food Bank

Whether you’re a regular visitor to our website or this is your first time here, we want to take a moment to say thank you: for caring about your community, prioritizing food insecurity and giving back to your neighbors in need. We know there are many demands on your time and your dollar — as always, we urge you to keep your giving local whenever possible — and we appreciate your consideration of Chester County Food Bank as a place to donate your resources.

If you are a newer supporter or just need a quick refresher, here’s a little bit of background about CCFB:

 

For nearly a decade, we’ve been a force for positive change in Chester County, addressing the needs of a population that isn’t always visible in one of the wealthiest counties in Pennsylvania. We don’t simply distribute food — we search for ways to make a lasting impact on our community, disrupt the cycles of economic instability, create sustainable systems and empower individuals and families.

Some of the ways we do this are through educational initiatives, such as:

  • Taste It! and Eat Fresh: Taste It! is a series of volunteer-led food demonstrations that give people an opportunity to try new foods, especially fresh produce. Eat Fresh is a series of cooking and nutrition classes for youth and adults at risk for food insecurity. These six-week courses give attendees the tools and confidence to choose and cook healthy food for themselves and their families.
  • FRESHstart Kitchen: This new, 14-week program is designed to educate and prepare low-income residents for opportunities and sustainable employment in the food service industry. Led by two amazing staff members, FRESHstart Kitchen assists individuals with limited work experience and significant personal challenges — including substance abuse and criminal records — and provides self empowerment skills to help address challenges entering or reentering the workforce.
  • Bilingual resources: As we investigate ways to reach all of the diverse communities in Chester County, we’ve added staff members to help with bilingual outreach and translation for Spanish-speaking populations, and partnered with La Comunidad Hispana, a diverse, bilingual Federally Qualified Health Center in southern Chester County. There, we offer Eat Fresh classes and, for some families, the Fruit & Vegetable Prescription (FVRx) program, which distributes prescription vouchers that can be redeemed for fresh produce at CCFB’s mobile Fresh2You truck.

We certainly do collect a lot of food (which makes its way to dozens of community organizations and food pantries in Chester County), both from individual donors and groups, as well as through our own methods of growing fresh produce. Here are a few examples:

  • We grow our own food! CCFB has its own five-acre plot of farm land at Pete’s Produce Farm at Westtown School, a space that Pete Flynn, farmer and longtime friend to the Food Bank, generously donated to CCFB. Our farm, led by a talented and dedicated farming expert with the help of hundreds of volunteers, grows all kinds of veggies, which go right to individuals, families and senior citizens in our community.
  • Our Raised Bed Farm Program, which has a series of gardens at over 110 host sites — such as schools, corporations, senior centers and churches — that harvests enough produce to constitute 33% of the fresh produce that we distribute. In total, between our farm, these garden plots, and our hauls from local produce auctions, we’re able to distribute over one million pounds of fresh produce each year to our member agencies!
  • Of course, we also rely on local food drives for fresh and nonperishable donations. From the folks behind the Diwali Food Drive to our Annual PB&J Drive (a friendly competition that mobilizes hundreds of people to collect jars of peanut butter and jelly donations to help keep Chester County kids fed throughout the summer), we are always amazed at the creative, passionate and generous ways that people are able to organize and combine their talents and time.  

This is just a small taste of all of things Chester County Food Bank is able to do thanks to people like you! But just because the winter holidays have wrapped up doesn’t mean we’re all set for the year. We rely on donors and volunteers year-round to achieve our mission of mobilizing our community to ensure access to real, healthy food. Will you join us in 2019 to help create a healthier Chester County?

Want to learn more? 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 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