food cupboard

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

Meet the Community Partner: Octorara Area Food Cupboard

Chester County Food Bank works with dozens of food cupboards in our area to help distribute food to our neighbors in need. One such organization is the Octorara Area Food Cupboard in Parkesburg.

Open in its current location since December 2012, this completely volunteer-run food cupboard serves the Octorara Area School District region, including Atglen, Christiana, Cochranville, Compass, Parkesburg, Pomeroy, Sadsbury and Wagontown.

Through the support of local businesses, churches, schools, civic groups and individuals, it is able to supply nonperishable and fresh foods, as well as dairy and meats, to the community.

The Octorara Food Cupboard also administers an Emergency Food Box program to those in unexpected and dire situations. In 2016, it distributed more than 1,100 pounds of food to people in the area.

The Octorara Area Food Cupboard holds a special place in our hearts because CCFB has been part of it since the beginning. OAFC began in 2005 as a monthly mobile food pantry that would set up in a parking lot in Parkesburg, an area with little access for people in need of food. Operated by the Chester County Food Bank, this market would serve about 65 people with 1,500 pounds of food. In 2010, Judy Dougherty took over as lead volunteer for that mobile pantry and became OAFC’s director in 2012.

At that time, the mobile food market was distributing more than 9,000 pounds of food to 500 residents each month, and OAFC decided it was time for a permanent space. Through a collaborative effort with the Chester County Food Bank and Parkesburg Point Youth Center, as well as local businesses, churches and residents, Octorara Area Food Cupboard opened its doors on Dec. 4, 2012.

CCFB’s executive director, Larry Welsch, was there when that mobile market was founded, and admires Judy as a leader of the ever-growing OAFC.

“Judy is amazing! I am not sure what we would have done without her commitment to the people of that community,” he said. “She has a great team of volunteers and board members who really work hard for that area which, coincidentally, is my hometown!”

As director of OAFC, Judy heads a dedicated group of 50-plus volunteers, who are tasked with unpacking, sorting, identifying and weighing all the food items received. They also stock the shelves in the food area and work with clients coming in for pickups.

“The Octorara Area Food Cupboard’s work has been key to meeting the needs of one of the highest poverty areas in the county. The Chester County Food Bank depends on that work and its partnership with OAFC to ensure access to real, healthy food for the people of that area,” says Larry.

The Octorara Area Food Cupboard is located at 714 W. Main St. in Parkesburg and open Tuesdays from 10 a.m.–noon and 2–4 p.m, and Wednesdays from 10 a.m.–noon and 3–7 p.m.

Want to learn moreSign up for our newsletter and stay connected. You can also donate foodfunds and time to help us achieve our mission. Call (610) 873-6000 to speak to someone about getting involved or to 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 take a steadfast approach to provide food and build support in the neediest communities, while raising awareness and engagement among our community.

Emily Kovach

Photos, top to bottom: Bigstock; Octorara Area Food Cupboard; Bigstock

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photos: The Town Dish