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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

 

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.

Ricky Eller, our Advocacy Coordinator, says that during Hunger Action Month, you can also practice advocacy in the following ways:

2. 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 and canned fruit in juice (no high-fructose corn syrup, please!). See here to learn more.

 

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.

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.

Feed Our Neighbors: Volunteer on a Farm

Chester County is home to a bounty of fertile farmland—nearly 165,000 acres, according to the 2012 U.S. Census of Agriculture—and here at the Chester County Food Bank, we don’t take that incredible resource for granted. We’re proud to have two local farm partners: Pete’s Produce Farm in West Chester and Springton Manor Farm in Glenmoore. Both of these farms are generous enough to donate acreage to the CCFB and allow us to grow our own produce there.

On nearly five acres of farmland between Pete’s and Springton, we’re able to grow a large quantity of a limited variety of crops. Throughout the growing season—which runs from April until November each year—we’ll see kale, collard greens, cabbage, broccoli, lettuce, onions, garlic, tomatillos, sweet and hot peppers, tomatoes and herbs all coming from our fields! All of this nourishing, locally grown food adds up over the months—we harvested over 120,000 pounds of produce last year, all of which goes to local families and neighbors in need through our partner hunger relief agencies and Food Security Initiatives.

How do we implement such a significant program? Through the help of our amazing volunteers! Each season, we rely on over 1,000 volunteers to get outside to plant, maintain and harvest our nutrient-dense crops. Volunteering with our farm partners is a wonderful way to get to the roots of food insecurity, and there’s nothing quite so rewarding as spending a few hours out on the farm and seeing the impact of your hard work. If you’ve got a weekday afternoon or a few mornings to spare this growing season, we encourage you to come out to the fields with us and get your hands dirty in the best way!

A few more facts about our on-site farm volunteer opportunities:

  • We average 15 volunteers each day during the height of the season, splitting time between a.m. and p.m. shifts Monday – Friday.
  • Our need is greatest in late August and early September, when students return to school.
  • Volunteering with us is simple: if you’re interested, check out our online calendar, create a profile and sign up for any workdays that fit your schedule!
  • Volunteer opportunities are also available at our Community Gardens at Springton and in Phoenixville. Garden days are hosted in the morning to get the harvesting in before it’s too hot. These opportunities are also posted on our online calendar,
  • There’s no obligation or ongoing commitment to volunteer. Of course, we love when volunteers come out on a regular basis, but it’s fine if you can only sign up for one day.
  • If, for some reason, you’re unable to attend a workday that you signed up for, we only ask that you cancel with plenty of advance notice (at least 48 hours).
  • To schedule a group workday (five or more individuals), email volunteer@chestercountyfoodbank.org with three potential dates.

To get started with creating an account, looking at our volunteer schedule or signing up to work at one of the beautiful farms, head over to our volunteer site.

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, healthy food.

Emily Kovach

 

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

Get Your Hands Dirty for a Great Cause: Start a Raised Bed Garden

Did you know that the Chester County Food Bank is well-versed in the education and execution of raised-bed gardens? Imagine being able to participate in a thriving program that provides an excuse for some built-in therapy, courtesy of Mother Nature while growing fresh produce for food insecure neighbors within your community.

Raina Ainslie, raised bed garden program manager, says, “Gardens are powerful places for growing community, sharing knowledge and, of course, sharing food. The partner gardens play a crucial role in getting fresh produce out into their communities.” In 2016, the Food Bank supported 110 partner gardens, which yielded over 40,000 pounds of food.

What exactly is a raised-bed garden?

Wood-framed raised-garden beds, also called garden boxes, are great for growing small plots of vegetables and flowers. They keep pathway weeds from the garden soil, prevent soil compaction, provide good drainage and serve as a barrier to pests such as slugs and snails.

Where are the Food Bank’s raised-bed gardens?

With roots stemming from the Gleaning Program in 1997, the raised bed garden program was adopted by the Food Bank in 2009 with six partner garden sites, and has now grown to over 125 sites being hosted at locations such as schools, corporations, senior centers and churches. Our raised bed garden manager, Raina Ainslie, works with host sites for their initial garden set up and educational support. In January, we hosted our first workshop of the year, “Planning the Three Season Garden,” where 25 partner gardens gathered to learn about scheduling crops for spring, summer and fall harvests.

 

I want to help. Where can I find out more about starting my own garden?

We encourage home gardeners to grow a row and donate produce to your local food cupboard.  At the beginning of each growing season, we have a limited number of raised bed garden kits available for purchase. Email Raina Ainslie for information about this year’s availability.

If you don’t have a home garden, we invite you to join us for volunteer opportunities at some of our host sites.  You can also volunteer as a facilitator with our Seed to Supper program.

 

When is a good time to begin my garden?

With gardening, any time is a great time to begin. Winter and early spring are perfect for the planning process. You must decide where to plant, what grows best early on, which seeds to select. Also, someone will have to construct the raised bed frames.

For our agriculture and garden programs, our staff began greenhouse seeding at Technical College High School (TCHS) Pennock’s Bridge Campus in late February. The first round of seeding will include spring crops: kale, broccoli, spinach and lettuce. Summer crop seeding follows a few weeks later and includes eggplant, tomato, pepper and basil.

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, healthy food. 

Ed Williams

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

Types of donations:

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


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

 

 

 

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

Thanks to you, we’re growing a healthier community.

The Chester County Food Bank is the central hunger relief organization serving more than 120 food cupboards, meal sites and social service organizations throughout Chester County. We take a steadfast approach to provide food and build support in the neediest communities, while raising awareness and engagement among our community.

Ed Williams

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

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

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