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“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. It’s hard to believe the hustle and bustle of the holidays. 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. At times, many 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. 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 nonperishables 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. Need Meals on Wheels of Chester County’s services, or know someone who could use a hand? Call (610) 873-6000.

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.

How to Give Back on Giving Tuesday and During the Holidays

This time of year, there’s a lot of spending going on—it seems as soon as the Thanksgiving leftovers are wrapped up and put in the fridge that the frenzy of holiday consumerism is upon us. Of course, there’s Black Friday, when megastores and malls around the country break out their craziest deals and shoppers line up for hours in the cold night to take advantage of sunrise deals.

Over the past decade or so, other shopping occasions have been tacked onto the post-Thanksgiving weekend: Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday and, more recently, Giving Tuesday. While we’re not opposed to bargain hunting or great online savings, Giving Tuesday is the day that’s most important to us.

Giving Tuesday launched in 2012 as an initiative begun by the 92nd Street Y in New York City and the United Nations Foundation. The day, focused on charitable giving, is positioned as a response to the nonstop commercialization at the start of the holiday shopping season.

Although we understand that people have been asked to dig deep into their pockets a lot this year to help with hurricanes and other natural disaster relief efforts, victims of mass shootings, wildfires and the growing list of local and global causes that matter to them, we want to remind you to give locally as well. Just as you try to boost the local economy by shopping at the farmers market and supporting independent retailers, please remember your neighbors in need right here in Chester County with a Giving Tuesday donation to Chester County Food Bank on Tuesday, November 27.

At the CCFB, we can turn every dollar given into four dollars’ worth of healthy food. By leveraging our buying power, working with markets and local organizations to rescue food and communicating with our network of farm partners to glean excess crops, we are able to really stretch out our supporters’ generous monetary donations. We use these donations—and the food we can buy with them—to further our many initiatives and programs that combat food insecurity in our communities.

Every year, we notice a cultural switch around charitable giving. Thanksgiving is all about food, but as we turn the corner toward Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa, many people begin to donate toys (to other organizations). Gifts for children are important, but hunger never takes a break, especially in the winter, when colder weather often drives up families’ expenses with higher heating bills. As we so often say, hunger lives closer than you think. Though Chester County is home to many middle- and upper middle-class families, many of our neighbors are working families just barely scraping by. In fact, 15 percent of folks in Chester County struggle with food insecurity, and the added financial pressures around the holiday can exacerbate the problem.

Anne Shuniak, CCFB’s marketing and communications manager, reminds us that it’s not just the holidays we’re preparing for. “We’re stocking our shelves for winter days ahead too,” she said. “We’re trying to bring in as much as we can during this time, because it’s always the trend that things slow down in the New Year after the holiday season has passed.”

So as you gear up for holiday giving, consider a monetary donation—our online giving platform includes an easy way to make a tribute gift in a loved one’s honor or memory, and we’ll even send someone a card via email letting them know of your generous gift. What a cool idea for a unique hostess gift, or for a meaningful gesture instead of a physical gift! You can also designate CCFB as your preferred charity on Amazon Smile, and give back while shopping for all the friends and family on your holiday list!

If you’d like to make a food donation, we’re currently most in need of pantry staples like pasta, rice, hearty soups, and canned chicken and tuna. We do accept holiday-specific items, like turkeys, hams and instant potatoes, but its the pantry staples that really help local families put together those day-to-day meals that are just as important (nutritionally) as big holiday feasts. Food donations can be dropped off at our facility in Exton Monday through Friday from 8 a.m.–5 p.m. Please bring food donations to our warehouse loading dock entrance, where you can pull directly in and will be assisted unloading your vehicle. Note that we will be closed December 24 – 31, and will not reopen until 8 a.m. on Wednesday, January 2, 2019.

Thank you for your support and generosity all year long, and for considering us as your focus on Giving Tuesday and the 2018 holiday season!

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 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 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: Pexels; Chester County Food Bank; Ed Williams; Pexels

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

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. 

Be a Good Neighbor: Keep Your Giving Local

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

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

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

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

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

Want to learn more? Watch our our new mission video, sign up for our newsletter and stay connected. You can also donate food, funds and time to help us achieve our mission. Call (610) 873-6000 to speak to someone about getting involved or requesting a tour. Thanks to you, we’re growing a healthier community.

The Chester County Food Bank is the central hunger relief organization serving more than 120 food cupboards, meal sites and social service organizations throughout Chester County. We mobilize our community to ensure access to real, healthy food.

Emily Kovach

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

6 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 six that can help you to make the most of it:

1. Get Involved with Hunger Is

Hunger Is is a charitable program run by the Albertson Companies Foundation and local ACME Markets, with a very broad and ambitious goal: to eradicate hunger in America. The specific focus is creating and expanding breakfast programs for children. We’re excited to be chosen as a charity partner for this year’s Hunger Is campaign.

How can you help? During September, when you visit one of the seven local ACME markets in Chester County (see the full list below), you’ll see signs about the Hunger Is fundraiser and get an option to donate at checkout. Here’s a not-so-well-kept secret: Every dollar donated at checkout will go directly to CCFB! We’ll use the funds to support our hunger relief efforts that support children starting their day with a healthy breakfast.

Please stop by your neighborhood ACME in Chester County and make a donation to the Hunger Is campaign from September 1 through September 30.

Chester County ACME stores:

Eagle: 400 Simpson Dr., Chester Springs

Phoenixville: 785 Starr St., Phoenixville

London Grove: 851 Gap Newport Pike, Avondale

Devon: 700 West Lancaster Ave., Wayne

Thorndale: 3951 Lincoln Highway, Downingtown

Paoli: 39 Leopard Rd., Paoli

West Goshen: 907 Paoli Pike, West Chester

2. Help out with CCFB’s Weekend Backpack Program

School is back in session, which means that more than 18,000 children in our communities will receive free or reduced-cost breakfasts and lunches at school. For many of these students, school meals may be the only meals they can consistently rely on. But what happens when they go home over the weekend? That’s where our Weekend Backpack Program comes in: We provide nutritious and easy-to-prepare foods every Friday for children who are enrolled in the program. Using a rotating variety of shelf-stable foods that are purchased by the Food Bank (family-friendly pantry staples like pasta, canned fruit and peanut butter), these bags ensure that children and their families have enough food to eat meals throughout the weekends.

Keep an eye on your mailbox for a special postcard from CCFB with giving opportunities for this essential program. If you prefer, you can also donate online.

3. 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.

Perhaps, during September, you can set a goal of sharing one hunger-related article a week to your social media network, or spend a little extra time educating yourself about local economic policies — like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) — that can change the lives of people in our communities.

Ricky Eller, our administrative and program assistant, says that during Hunger Action Month, you can also practice advocacy in the following ways:

  • Explore Feeding America’s new Advocate Resource Center to learn more about the Farm Bill and ways you can support a strong version of it. Congress is scheduled to reauthorize the bill at the end of September, and the results could put millions of Americans at greater risk of food insecurity.
  • On Thursday, September 13th, Feeding America is hosting a Farm Bill Call-In Day. Dial (888) 398-8702. Callers will be asked for their zip code to be connected with the office of their Member of Congress. Here is a suggested script, if that’s helpful:

I am a constituent of your district, and I am calling on behalf of the Chester County Food Bank. Please protect SNAP — a critical program that helps millions of children, seniors, and veterans across the country — by supporting the Senate SNAP provisions of the Farm Bill. Please increase TEFAP in the final Farm Bill — a program that is critical to Chester County Food Bank’s ability to provide nutritious food to our community.

  • Tweet your Member of Congress with a digital paper plate to tell them why hunger matters in our community! See here to learn more.
  • Register to vote! Voter registration deadline is Tuesday, October 9.

4. Donate Food

Many people feel energized in September, making it the perfect time to hold a food drive. Gather a group of friends, neighbors, colleagues or church friends, and see how fun it can be to make a difference! When you host a food drive, you’re helping to provide our member agencies with nutritious, high-quality food so they can serve our neighbors struggling with food insecurity.

While all pantry staples are welcome, back-to-school time means there is an extra-high demand for breakfast foods. If possible, we’d appreciate food drives focused on nutritious breakfast favorites, like cereal, oatmeal, canned fruit in juice and cereal/granola bars (no high-fructose corn syrup, please!). See here to learn more.

 

5. Get to Know CCFB a Little Better

Brush up on CCFB’s mission and programs by watching a few of our new 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.

6. 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

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

Meet the Volunteers: Liz and Harry McMunigal

Here at the Chester County Food Bank, we owe so much to the dedicated, passionate group of volunteers who help us continue our mission of addressing food insecurity in our communities. We couldn’t do what we do without them!

We love introducing you to some of these people who generously give their time and energy to the Food Bank — each has their own story to share.

Meet Liz and Harry McMunigal: They are newer to our operation, but have jumped in feet first and are already making a huge impact at the CCFB!

Liz started volunteering with us in September 2017. The couple had recently moved to Downingtown, and as a new retiree, Liz was looking for volunteer opportunities. “As luck would have it, shortly after we moved here, we attended the yearly Open House at the Food Bank and I learned about volunteer opportunities there at that time,” she remembered. A few months later, she signed up to be a backup driver for our Meals on Wheels program. It was through that program that Liz learned about working in the Food Bank’s kitchen, which is where she now spends most of her volunteer time.

Her husband, Harry, says he was also impressed by the Open House, and began volunteering soon after his retirement earlier this year. “I simply thought it was a good cause to do what I could to help serve those with food insecurities,” he said.

Currently, you’ll find Liz working in the kitchen two to three times a week preparing meals for Meals on Wheels recipients, doing prep work for something that is being cooked or baked or plating meals for a future distribution. Occasionally, she’ll also work in the warehouse, doing various tasks from distributing donated food into its categories or packing boxes for distribution to senior citizens or backpacks for school children. “In the summer and fall, there are also many opportunities for bagging up fresh produce to be given out or sold,” she said.

Simple Suppers

Harry spends most of his three-hour shifts working in the warehouse, organizing donated food or preparing food for distribution. “It’s very enjoyable because I work with other volunteers who are very pleasant to work with and committed to helping those in need,” he said.

Liz also reports that the people she works alongside are her favorite part of volunteering at CCFB. “No matter what assignment I have, I’m working with the greatest bunch of people all the time,” she added. “The staff is so impressively dedicated to providing fresh and healthy food to the underserved communities in the area.”

While neither of them have food backgrounds, they have plenty of work experience in advocacy — both Liz and Harry were attorneys for 35 years!

“As far as my actual work with the Food Bank, I have no previous experience, so I’m starting from scratch and learning a lot!” Liz said. “And my work in the kitchen, under Cheryl’s [Fluharty, contracted kitchen staff at the Food Bank] excellent tutelage, has given me many good cooking tips to bring home!”

Harry says that what he’s picked up from his volunteer experiences is “that you can help others while being encouraged by the staff who, to a person, are very optimistic and conversant about the goals of the Food Bank.”

Their volunteering doesn’t stop at CCFB. Liz recently signed on to be a volunteer through Family Services of Chester County to drive people without transportation access to medical appointments, and still sometimes drive for Meals on Wheels as a substitute driver. Harry also volunteers at one of the food kitchens that the Food Bank in Coatesville serves.

Liz and Harry both encourage anyone who’s considering volunteering at CCFB to give it a try. Liz explained, “The Food Bank is a perfect place to begin the volunteer process, as you can sign on for as little or as many opportunities as you wish, doing a variety of tasks from working in the warehouse or the kitchen to planting or harvesting crops on the farms with whom the Food Bank deals. The facilities are impressive, and as stated earlier, the people are so dedicated and are fantastic to work with, and it’s just so much fun!”

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 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

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. Ricky Eller, our administrative and program assistant, says that 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,” he says. “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 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.

Ricky notes that “many folks 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 with the reauthorization of the Farm Bill in Congress. 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. Our new mission mini-documentary is a great way to learn more about us and to share with your online network.

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,” Ricky explains. “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,” Ricky says.

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 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 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: Pexels; Chester County Food Bank; Bigstock

Check Us Out: Stop By Our Open House March 24

We are excited to welcome you to visit us on Saturday, March 24, 2018,  at the Chester County Food Bank’s Open House. We always love the opportunity to connect with those in our surrounding neighborhoods and towns to share the work that we do in Chester County. Whether you’ve volunteered with us before or are just curious about what a Food Bank looks like, all are invited.

This fun and interactive event runs from 10 a.m. until noon at 650 Pennsylvania Drive in Exton. Visitors will have the chance to tour our 36,000 square-foot facility, meet our wonderful staff and some of our agency partners and get information about volunteering. The Open House is free to attend, and food donations are appreciated.

 

Of course, we’ll also have food-related activities for those who stop by! Our farmers and some of our farm partners will be here for a meet and greet. Our friends from the Eagleview Farmers Market will be set up for a special Saturday market with seasonal, locally grown produce and artisan crafted foods to purchase. Market shoppers will be able to enjoy the acoustic music while perusing the Open House. You’ll be able to check out the Fresh2You Mobile Market, and while it won’t be operating as a market, the team will be in attendance with plenty of information about this season and its work to bring fresh food into more communities.

Additionally, our raised bed garden team will be doing demonstrations and The Crafty Chef (a local cooking academy) will be facilitating a kids’ activity in our commercial kitchen. There will be other activities for kids as well, including a garden activity, learning about bees and decorating kindness boxes for our Senior Food program.

We hope to see you on March 24 (10a – Noon) at our Open House!

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 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

Kale Yeah! October 4 is National Kale Day

Kale, the unexpected rock star of green vegetables, is getting its own special day: October 4 is National Kale Day! These days, it seems like there’s a “holiday” for practically everything, but this is one that we’re happy to celebrate. Nutrition is a core value at Chester County Food Bank, and kale (plus collards, and other greens in the brassica family) are jam-packed with an amazing quantity of vitamins and minerals, like iron.

Kale, a hearty veggie, grows well in a variety of climates and soils. We should know—2017 is looking like one of our most successful growing years for kale. This fall, we’re set to harvest literally tons (between 15,000 and 20,000 pounds) of kale and other leafy greens grown in our raised-bed gardens and through our farm partners. We’re so proud of this amazing number, and are excited to share the bounty with our community through our many programs and our partner local food pantries and agencies.

To make this harvest happen, we will continue to rely on volunteer power. Volunteering on the farm is fun, and the autumn harvest is the perfect time to get involved! Check out our volunteer page for more info or to sign up for shifts.

There’s good reason so many people have fallen for kale salads and smoothies, and not just because they make pretty Instagram pictures! Kale is low in calories (just 36 per cup), high in fiber and Vitamins A, C and K, has more iron per calorie than beef and is packed with antioxidants. Also, 1 cup of kale boasts 10 percent of the RDA of omega-3 fatty acid and 9 percent of the recommended calcium and magnesium. Oh, and it has protein, too—2.9 grams per 1 cup serving. Pretty incredible, right?

Perhaps, you, like us, have found yourself with an abundance of kale after a productive summer. Or maybe the emerald green bunches are on sale at your local market, and you’re curious to see what this trendy vegetable is all about. Not sure what to do with kale, or its cousins, Swiss chard and collard greens? The options are almost endless!

Try it in a comforting soup with turkey and noodles (great for Thanksgiving leftovers), or shredded in a protein-packed Tuscan white bean salad. Supercharge a regular potato salad, or go classic with a health food cafe-worthy kale salad. If the texture of raw kale is a bit much for you, try massaging it. Yes, really! Rubbing the uncooked leaves down with a bit of olive oil and salt and allowing it to sit for a few minutes can help make the leaves softer and more pleasant to chew.

This October 4, join us in celebrating the wondrous plant that is kale during National Kale Day!

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: Pexels; Chester County Food Bank (next three photos)