About the Food Bank

Celebrate Your Birthday with Chester County Food Bank

There are plenty of social media trends that come into our feeds but don’t strike much interest. But one emerging trend that we can get behind is people asking for donations to charitable causes via social media in lieu of birthday (anniversary, housewarming) presents. It’s such a creative, personal way for people to engage with their communities, both near and far, and to fundraise for an issue or organization that’s meaningful to them.

In the past year or two, we’ve noticed lots of our amazing supporters using Facebook and other platforms to gather birthday/celebration donations for Chester County Food Bank (CCFB), and for that we cannot thank you enough! It warms our hearts to see the selflessness and generosity that are behind these online fundraisers.

Jason Bauer with his mom and sister. Photo courtesy of Lori Bauer.

Many adults have given up expecting a huge party and heaps of presents for their birthdays, but it’s something extra-special when kids use their birthdays as a way to encourage friends and family to donate time or money to good causes. We have two stories of kids who recently turned their birthdays into occasions to give back to their communities through the CCFB.

In August 2019, the only thing Jason Bauer wanted for his 12th birthday was to volunteer with his mother and sister at one of our raised bed gardens in Springton. Twelve is the minimum age for volunteers at the CCFB, and Jason wanted to do it at the first possible opportunity. He got his wish, and he and his family spent a beautiful afternoon helping to harvest produce to feed our neighbors in need. 

“It was something he had been really excited about for a while,” said Jason’s mom, Lori Bauer. “Jason, his sister, and I all loved it and found it very rewarding and humbling. The people who worked and volunteered there were all so kind and welcoming and helped make it a very wonderful experience!”

Lori says that Jason’s interest in the Chester County Food Bank started last year when one of his teachers spoke to the class about saving the planet. This school lesson inspired him to start fundraising for CCFB.

“He did this through selling handmade toys and lemonade, as well as fundraising (with my help) via email and social media,” said Lori. “I’ve never seen his face light up more than when he saw the donation amount increase!”

So far, Jason’s efforts, including a Go Fund Me Campaign, have raised nearly $400 that he plans to donate to the Chester County Food Bank. In his Go Fund Me statement, Jason says that he’s done some research and “found out that if we donate money instead of canned foods, our money not only can buy more food, it can also buy healthier options, like fruits and vegetables.” This is true! Of course, food drives are hugely important to what CCFB does, but with donated funds, we’re able to use our buying power to procure huge quantities of fresh produce from produce auctions, which helps us to fulfill our commitment to nutrition

Fresh produce photo courtesy of Chester County Food Bank.

Another inspiring story came to us last July when another local child, Dylan Houck, used his birthday as the organizing force behind a food drive — and the community really stepped up to get involved and support his efforts. Dylan’s goal was to raise more than 3,000 pounds of food, which he handily achieved: 3,124 pounds of food ended up going to the CCFB and an additional 160 pounds of food to a local family. This incredible haul consisted of 452 cans of chicken and tuna, 700 boxes of mac and cheese, 221 jars of peanut butter, 155 boxes of cereal and literally tons more! It’s truly inspiring to see what is possible when a group of people band together to make a difference in their town or region!

If these kids can go without new books, toys and clothes for one birthday, anyone can! Consider using your next birthday, anniversary or other celebration as a way to mobilize your social circles into some positive action. (We’ve created a fun Facebook birthday fundraiser cover to get you started. ) 

 

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

Feature photo: Pexels

 

Beyond Hunger: Gearing up for Our Best Season Yet with Fresh2You

As we recently announced, Chester County Food Bank’s new tagline, Beyond Hunger, sets the stage for our continued work of strengthening and nourishing our community. One of our signature programs that captures the essence of how we do this is our Fresh2You Mobile Market, a four-wheeled produce stand that brings fresh food to underserved areas.

Fresh2You is special to us because it really ties together everything that CCFB strives for in an elegant, powerful circle: organic produce that is grown by our farmer and through our raised bed gardens or through sourcing from local farmers is made available for accessible prices to the residents of Chester County; and volunteers, who staff the truck and run our TasteIt! demonstrations, introducing seasonal ingredients and cooking techniques to Fresh2You shoppers and then offering recipe bundles to recreate the dishes at home for just $5. It’s education and action all in one amazing package, and it exemplifies the ways in which we address the root causes of poverty and help people who need assistance beyond just going to a food pantry.

“Fresh2You aims to serve the entire community — we accept SNAP, have our Fruit & Vegetable RX (FVRx) program and are really trying to meet people where they are, both physically and financially,” said Roberta Cosentino, the Fresh2You Mobile Market Manager. “We’re trying to do what we can to get food in people’s hands in a dignified and equitable exchange.”

Our 2018 Fresh2You season was very successful, and 2019 is gearing up to be our best year yet! A second truck will hit the streets (its name is Blanche, and the original truck is Dorothy — “Golden Girls” fans, do you approve?), with an updated look, complete with the updated tagline “Shop, taste, cook with Chester County’s freshest.”

“We’re emphasizing that people can come to the market not only to get all the produce, but also experience by tasting it and by seeing people cooking TasteIt! recipe demos,” said Roberta. “TasteIt! is the most important thing that we do. We have customers who tell us, ‘This is the one day that I don’t have to think about what to make for dinner,’ and that’s people from all backgrounds.”

The second truck will allow for more mobile market opportunities. Because Blanche is smaller and setup is easier, Roberta believes her team will be able to visit some smaller locations. As it stands, the 2019 Fresh2You schedule is looking great: Tuesday, we’ll be at the Phoenixville Senior Center from 10 a.m. to noon and at the Coventry Mall from 3 to 5 p.m.; Wednesday, at the Coatesville Veterans Affairs Medical Center from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and at the Parkesburg Service Center from 3 to 5 p.m.; Thursday at the Kennett Area YMCA from 10 a.m. to noon; Friday at the Oxford Public Library from 10 to noon; Saturday at the Coatesville Public Library from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.; and every last Friday of the month at Indian Run in Honey Brook.  

The season is longer this year, too: It kicked off on June 4 and runs all the way through November 23. One of the ways we’re able to do this is that we’re working closely with our farmers to grow all kinds of crops that help extend the seasons, and that respond to things Fresh2You shoppers have been excited about.

“Our farmers are tailoring what they’re growing to our market!” Roberta said. “For instance, we had a lot of success with kohlrabi. We went from not growing it at all to this year our farmer growing two or three different kinds. We learned that it’s something that people of all different backgrounds eat; we weren’t really aware of that.”

Our farmer is also growing more and a greater variety of fresh herbs, which are frequent additions to our TasteIt! recipe bundles. The recipes that we design are meant to be accessible and versatile, even for beginners — think coleslaw, ratatouille and pasta salad. We want people to know that you can make simple food delicious, even just using a hot plate (as we do during the demonstrations)! The only ingredients we assume people have at home are oil, salt and pepper. We offer our own dried herb blends and vinegar at the market, and hopefully this year will be selling olive oil, as well.

Part of our Beyond Hunger philosophy is that our Fresh2You Mobile Market is open to everyone. We are so excited to see you this season at whatever location is most convenient to your home or work! And, if you love to cook, consider volunteering with Fresh2You and TasteIt! We’re always looking for more helpers, and a comprehensive Fresh2You training is coming up in August.

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

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

 

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

 

 

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 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

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

Meet the Team: A Q&A with CCFB Farmer Bill Shick

We’re proud of lots of our accomplishments here at Chester County Food Bank. One thing that we think is pretty special is how much fresh produce we’re able to supply to our neighbors in need across Chester County. Often, when people think “food bank” or “food pantry,” they imagine cans of food and dried goods lining the shelves. Of course, nonperishable items are an essential component of what we provide, but as fresh food is paramount to good nutrition, it’s a remarkable thing that we’re able to distribute over one million pounds of fresh produce each year.

Some of this produce comes from local produce auctions, where our buying power can stretch your donations to incredible lengths. Some comes from the efforts of our Raised Bed Garden Program, which happens each year across 100 growing sites staffed by dedicated volunteers. But what you might not realize is that a large amount of our fresh produce comes from a farm plot, staffed by Bill Shick, CCFB’s Director of Agriculture Program.

Bill works on a five-acre farm plot 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. With the help of hundreds of volunteers, Bill grows all kinds of veggies at the farm, which go right to individuals, families and senior citizens in our community.

Recently, Bill took some time away from his busy schedule out in the fields to chat with us and share a bit more about himself.

When did you start working for CCFB? What did you do before that?

Bill Shick: In March 2013. Before that, I was the urban agriculture and facilities director at the Share Food Program in Philadelphia. I have been farming off and on since 2000, with a few years of environmental consulting thrown in.

What do you love about farming? What can be challenging about it?

I enjoy being outside, physically active, the planning ahead and working toward a goal — and also the frequent instant gratification of fieldwork. I like using my plant and soil science degree and 14 years of farming experience to tackle day-to-day and seasonal challenges on the farm. Every year is different, and that keeps it interesting.

The challenges include long hours, hot weather, the physical toll on your body, insects, diseases, marauding animals and mechanical problems with equipment.

Why do you enjoy working for CCFB? Is it different from other farming jobs that you’ve had?

I enjoy the fact that what we work so hard to grow is going to those who truly need it and appreciate it. Local produce is often expensive and out of reach for many of those with lower incomes. I also enjoy our partnerships with Pete’s, the county park system and the Camphill community in Kimberton. I’m excited to offer volunteers an opportunity to serve their community, meet new people and learn about farming

There are major differences farming for a nonprofit. The biggest is the daily use of mostly unskilled labor rather than an experienced field crew. Volunteers are almost always willing to work in any weather and do any task; they just require training and patience until they get the hang of what they’re doing. The daily interactions with a big cross-section of our community is a great part of the job. Another benefit of farming in partnership with others is that I’m mostly free from worrying about much of the farm infrastructure and maintenance of heavy equipment.

A huge plus that I appreciate daily is the support I receive from my coworkers and volunteers at the Food Bank warehouse and processing kitchen. They handle the storage, inventory, washing, repacking and distribution of everything we grow. This frees me and my field manager up to focus solely on production and allows us to grow significantly more than we could otherwise.

How has your program grown since you started?

We’ve increased the diversity of what we grow and the length of the growing season. We try to keep up with demand for certain crops and work with our agencies and programs to hopefully increase demand for produce. We’ve taken on more land every year at Pete’s Produce, and have made improvements to field and greenhouse operations at Springton Manor.

How do you envision this program growing in the future?

We often think about adding more acreage at a new farm site that we could manage completely on our own. We’d like to build several large high tunnel greenhouses to grow throughout the year. We’d also like to add enough acreage to grow more storage vegetables to help fill our coolers for winter distribution.

We could potentially offer farmer education and training and a small farm “incubator” for aspiring farmers, too.

Where do you live? Any hobbies in your free time?

I enjoy mountain biking, hiking, camping, cross-country skiing, craft breweries and live music. I split my time between Downingtown and Mount Airy in Northwest Philadelphia, where my partner farms.

Thanks for all you do, Bill! Your enthusiasm and expertise are a huge component in the success of our farming program.

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