4 Ways to Make the Most of Hunger Action Month

At the Chester County Food Bank, we’re working year-round to end hunger and food insecurity in our communities. No matter the season, we’re mobilizing our staff and volunteers to make a difference in the lives of our neighbors in need, from Simple Suppers to nutrition education.

That said, September is a preview to the giving season, as it’s Hunger Action Month, a wide-reaching initiative from Feeding America, the nation’s largest domestic hunger-relief organization. For us, food insecurity is a priority day in and day out; still, September gives us a chance to address issues of hunger in a more high-profile way.

There are plenty of ways to get involved in Hunger Action Month this year, but here are four that can help you to make the most of it:

1. Practice Acts of Advocacy

Advocacy is central to what we do at the Food Bank. We count on public support to help further our mission and accomplish our goals, and without a network of allies to help us spread the word about our work, we’d be in trouble. We can organize and take action, but to make the biggest impact, we need our supporters to help share the important message about how hunger affects those living in our cities and towns.

During Hunger Action Month, you can also practice advocacy in the following ways:

  • Join us in speaking out for the importance of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. SNAP is crucial for so many in the Commonwealth. Recently introduced federal rules will cause thousands of Pennsylvanians to suffer from hunger, Food Banks and the charitable food network to strain to meet increased demand, and retailers and food producers to lose profits and experience a more constrained customer base. Learn more about SNAP and how your vote matters in protecting these important programs.
  • Prepare to use your voting power to stave off hunger! September 22nd is #NationalVoterRegistrationDay and it is easier than ever to register in Pennsylvania! Residents can register online or check their registration status by visiting VotesPA.com. The last day to register in time to vote (November 3) is October 19th. Don’t delay, register today!

2. Donate Food (Virtually)

We may not be able to gather a group of friends in person, but you can virtually host a food drive. Rather than bringing people together in person or encouraging them to go out shopping for a traditional food drive, we are asking for people to host a virtual food drive, Individual or Team fundraiser through our online platform.  Your financial gift enables us to purchase the most needed foods to create emergency food boxes but also provide fresh fruits and vegetables to help the many people across Chester County that have been severely impacted by missed work, increased childcare expenses, and uncovered medical bills.


3. Get to Know CCFB a Little Better

Brush up on CCFB’s mission and programs by watching a few of our videos! A great place to start is with our mini-documentary, A Fresh Approach, which is all about our history and our work in the community. Be sure to check out our Eat Fresh classes and try out a new recipe. 

4. Sign Up to Volunteer

Whether you’re new to CCFB or you’ve been a supporter for years, we’d love to have you pitch in as a volunteer. If you like to cook, garden, work with children or just spend some social time with others helping out a good cause, there is an opportunity waiting for you at the Food Bank! Commitments range from one afternoon-long session to ongoing shifts — it’s completely up to you and your availability! Come alone or as part of a team. See here for sign up info.

No matter how you choose to get involved, make Hunger Action Month a time that you look forward to each September to help Chester County Food Bank further our work in the community!

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

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

Governor’s Budget Addresses Anti-Hunger Initiatives

Gov. Tom Wolf’s proposed 2020-21 General Fund budget would provide an additional investment of $1 million in the Pennsylvania Agricultural Surplus System (PASS) while holding the line on funding for the State Food Purchase Program (SFPP).

The spending plan also would put into effect a long-standing priority for Hunger-Free Pennsylvania by listing the line items for PASS and SFPP separately. For years, funding for PASS was simply included within the SFPP line item. Both are administered by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture.

“Hunger remains an epidemic, affecting every community and the people we know: children, seniors, and individuals with disabilities; low-wage and part-time workers who can’t find steady employment; veterans; people who are homeless or in transitional housing; and people struggling with addiction,” said Sheila Christopher, executive director of Hunger-Free Pennsylvania (HFPA), one the state’s largest nonprofit food providers.

Since 1983, SFPP has been the foundation for Pennsylvania’s food banks and food pantries in the public-private effort to meet the most basic needs of hungry families. SFPP helps organizations purchase foods and nutritional supplements, finance food provider transportation and infrastructure, and gain access to federal food commodities.

In 2006-07, the state allotted $18.75 million for SFPP. More than a decade later, SFPP funding has DECREASED to $18.188, even as everything from the cost of food to transportation fuel has increased. To simply keep up with inflation, which has increased 27.4% since 2006, SFPP should total $24 million. The proposed 2020-21 General Fund keeps funding at $18.188 million.

Through PASS, the Department of Agriculture provides funding to cover the costs associated with harvesting, processing, packaging, and transporting surplus products including fruits, vegetables, eggs, dairy, meat, and grains in order to donate those items to the charitable food system. Current funding has allowed healthy and nutritious surplus food to be brought into the charitable food system to nourish 1.6 million Pennsylvanians who struggle to put food on the table.

The governor’s budget would boost PASS by an additional $1 million, bringing the total to $2.5 million in the 2020-21 spending plan. The administration previewed the increase during a Jan. 22 event in Philadelphia to announce several new initiatives geared toward protecting Pennsylvania’s most vulnerable populations.

The Wolf administration has been steadfast in its consistent support of anti-hunger efforts — through the combined efforts of state agency partners in the Governor’s Food Security Partnership, and through implementation of “A Blueprint for a Hunger-free PA.”

Yet, even with these advances, hunger still affects far too many residents. More than 1.6 million Pennsylvanians, or 12.5% of the state’s population, qualify as food insecure, meaning they lack consistent access to enough food for an active, healthy life.

Nearly 3 million Pennsylvania residents turned to food pantries and meal service programs to feed themselves and their families last year.

Advocacy Team Attends Anti-Hunger Policy Conference

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


3 Ways to Practice Advocacy at Home

Here at Chester County Food Bank, advocacy is central to our mission. Of course, action is also key to accomplishing our work to combat food insecurity in our communities, as well as carry out all of the many programseducational outreach opportunities and direct distribution initiatives that we provide to our neighbors in need. But without advocacy (defined as “public support for or recommendation of a particular cause or policy”), we wouldn’t have a network of allies to help us spread the word about our work and share the important message about how hunger affects those living in our cities and towns.

Not only do we rely on our supporters to act as advocates, but we also practice advocacy. The CCFB practices advocacy by committing to protect federal and state nutrition programs, which help to keep food on the tables of our neighbors currently experiencing or are at risk of food insecurity.

Whether we are meeting with representatives in Harrisburg to champion funding for SFPP (State Food Purchase Program) or engaging with our partner agencies to ask their members of Congress to protect SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), our efforts are aimed at educating the community on these vitally important programs and the role they serve in Chester County. Simply put, we can’t do it alone, and advocacy is just one way that we work to meet our mission of mobilizing our community to ensure access to real, healthy food.

While you might not have the time or resources to meet with state reps or undertake a big campaign, we urge you to not assume that advocacy isn’t for you. There are so many small, everyday ways that you can practice advocacy right at home. It’s too easy to believe that if we’re not doing something “big” that we aren’t able to make an impact, but here at CCFB, we’ve seen that assumption debunked over and over again.

Here are three ways you can practice advocacy at home:

1. Share an article on social media: Facebook and Instagram can be used for some much more than posting family photos or cute animal memes. Social media can be an incredible tool for sharing information and educating friends and family about important social issues.

Many people don’t realize the prevalence of hunger in our community, and right now is a particularly important time to bring awareness to anti-hunger policy.  Just starting the conversation is a great place to begin. Sharing news articles — from trusted, reputable sources, of course — is an easy and almost instant way of practicing advocacy.

2. Educate yourself: Sharing articles via social media becomes a lot more powerful when you also educate yourself about the issues you care about. For instance, when it comes to hunger and food insecurity, many policies benefit communities in more ways than providing food.

A program like SNAP is an important revenue stream for communities. Every dollar of SNAP is estimated to generate $1.70 of economic activity that would be sorely missed by businesses in Chester County. Once folks have an understanding, writing or calling elected officials is an effective way to have your voice heard. The more personalized the message, the better!

Firsthand experience can also be the most compelling form of education. Volunteering at a food pantry or meal site in your neighborhood can provide a meaningful way to connect with people who have real-life experiences with hunger. Having a story to share with legislators will embolden advocates to take a stand to protect the programs we fight for every day.

3. Shop at your local farmers market: Keep your dollars working locally by supporting your local food system. Most communities hold a weekly farmers market for at least part of the year, and choosing to buy some of your groceries at these markets is a huge help to farmers in our region. You’ll get the benefit of fresh, seasonal produce — often organic or grown with Integrated Pest Management practices — all while supporting the agricultural community instead of multinational corporations.

We hope these three suggestions have helped show how anyone can practice simple acts of advocacy in their day-to-day life. Try one of them and see how easy it can be to speak out and support our mission to end hunger insecurity in Chester County!

Want to Get Involved? You can donate foodfunds and time to help us achieve our mission. Call (610) 873-6000 to speak to someone about getting involved or click here. Thanks to you, we’re growing a healthier community.

The Chester County Food Bank is the central hunger relief organization serving more than 160 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: Pexels; Chester County Food Bank; Bigstock


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