For food to get into the hands of our neighbors and community members who need it most, it must go on a journey. Just how does food travel to the Chester County Food Bank and then on to local food cupboards and into the hands of individuals who take it home? Here’s a sneak peek into the process:
- First, we receive the food. There are several ways that food arrives at the Chester County Food Bank. There are food drives, food rescue from wholesalers and manufacturers, fresh produce from our local Farm Partners and our Raised Bed Program, government programs and financial donations that allow us to buy food for amazingly economical prices at auctions.
- Then, we organize the food. The CCFB is a relatively large organization, and we’re able to carefully manage the fresh produce, frozen foods and other items that pass through our doors. All of the food that comes through our system is weighed and entered into our inventory software system. The food is then stored in our warehouse and in our large refrigerator and freezer units.
We’ve spent the last seven and a half years building and honing the sophisticated food intake and storage capacity that we currently have in our 36,000-square-foot facility. And we’re growing! In the next few years, we will be increasing our refrigeration and freezer space so we can accept more fresh produce and more locally sourced dairy, poultry and meats.
- The food is safely stored in our warehouse until our network of over 150 nonprofits, schools, senior centers and other organizations and agencies are ready to receive items. Distributions are made directly or through one of CCFB’s programs, such as our Weekend Backpack Program, Meals on Wheels, and our Summer Food Boxes. While the food is held in storage, our staff is constantly strategizing how to maximize the use and potential of each type of food.
For example: We receive funding from the State Food Purchase Program, a government grant through which we can purchase fresh produce, frozen meats, non-perishables and other items. We can use those funds to purchase more expensive foods that cupboards may not normally have, like shelf-stable milk, which can last on a pantry shelf for up to a year, is easy to transport and store and adds important nutrition to a family’s diet. We can use that grant money to ensure that any family that comes to one of the food cupboards can take home milk every time they visit.
- We distribute the food. Each month, we send all of the agencies we work with a list of available foods and they choose what they’d like. Larger food cupboards may want items that enhance what they already have on shelves, while other smaller operations may depend entirely on the Chester County Food Bank. The food is then packed up and delivered to those locations in our three refrigerated box trucks.
- Each agency or cupboard keeps their own lists of clients, who choose the location they’d like to visit based on their school districts. There are 14 school districts in Chester County and we ensure that there is at least one food cupboard in each district, and food security initiatives help clients know where to go. We work with a network of guidance counselors, senior centers, youth centers, county youth and family services, therapists, local churches, medical clinics and religious organizations who all can assist our neighbors in need know who’s open and who they can call. Our website also features a responsive map function that allows anyone to search for a nearby food cupboard, even from a library computer or pay-as-you-go phone. Each agency sets its own pick-up hours for their clients, who then take the food home to enjoy well-rounded meals all week or month long.
The glue that holds this whole system together—the guides for the food’s journey from cupboard to client—is volunteers. For both the Chester County Food Bank and our community partner agencies, it’s largely volunteer power that helps get food into the hands of the nearly 50,000 people who we provide food for each year. Without a doubt, volunteers are the real heroes with their boots on the ground, making sure that food cupboard doors are unlocked, taking deliveries, attending meetings and so much more. We are so grateful for our own volunteers, who help inspect, process and repack food for our programs, as well as the huge network of volunteers at local food pantries and cupboards. If it wasn’t for them, food would never be able to travel from cupboard to client, and many of our neighbors and community members would go hungry.
Want to learn more? Sign up for our newsletter and stay connected. You can also donate food, funds and time to help us achieve our mission. Call (610) 873-6000 to speak to someone about getting involved or requesting a tour. Thanks to you, we’re growing a healthier community.
The Chester County Food Bank is the central hunger relief organization serving more than 120 food cupboards, meal sites and social service organizations throughout Chester County. We mobilize our community to ensure access to real, healthy food.