Establishing Our Roots
Fronting the Fight Against Hunger
Founded in 2009, Chester County Food Bank’s mission is to mobilize our community to ensure access to real, healthy food. CCFB was established as a response to escalating hunger in the county during the recession. Today, we provide food support for immediate nutritional needs in addition to education and wellness opportunities to address the root causes of food insecurity. We provide diverse distribution outlets and varied forms of food access to maximize outreach in culturally appropriate ways. Despite our existence as a “young” organization, we have evolved to be a leading food bank in the areas of nutrition, locally sourced foods, and education.
From the onset, improving access to fresh, nutritious food was accomplished through strategic food production and procurement as well as optimizing the use of the incredible resources and partnerships of our area. Our Agriculture Department supports us in providing the freshest food for our programs with the help of an industrious volunteer base on the farm and in the processing kitchen. At our partner farm sites, our staff and volunteers grow 100,000 pounds of vegetables seasonally. Approximately 20% of the 1.7 million pounds of produce distributed annually is grown here in Chester County. Each year, we distribute 3.5 million pounds of food to over 160 organizations while prioritizing nutrition, local food, and a dignified experience as we address immediate food needs. Our food distribution partners include food pantries, hot meal sites, shelters, healthcare providers, schools, residences, senior centers, and other outreach organizations who serve as varied food access points throughout the county.
Working Towards the Future
After establishing ourselves as the central hunger-relief organization in the county, we recognized the link between poverty, hunger, and food insecurity as well as the need for sustainable change. We cultivated a holistic approach with the development of programs using a food justice model. Our programs were designed to improve healthy food access, offer opportunities for quality education, and promote peer support and community engagement to strengthen self-sufficiency as well as improve health. We have seen success in our programs as we evaluate changes in health behaviors, quality of life, social support, and employment. Our passionate staff provides varied expertise and unique insight into the multifaceted issues interconnected with food insecurity. We strengthen our holistic approach with a staff who specializes in a range of areas including agriculture, gardening, nutrition, culinary arts, social enterprise, social work, community outreach, participatory research, and many more.
In 2017, we became a Partner Distribution Organization (PDO) of Philabundance which is a part of the Feeding America network.
Harvesting Hope through the Pandemic
Throughout the pandemic, CCFB worked collaboratively and strategically to respond to a growing need. We have worked closely with our partners to increase their capacity to provide not just more food but healthier food, establishing new partners along the way. Despite the limitations of rising food costs and the temporary lack of a volunteer force, we increased our food output by 10% and increased the proportion of fresh fruits and vegetables to half of our total distribution. This increase in healthy perishable foods required us to support our agencies in improving infrastructure needs with the addition of cold storage units in order to store more food and reduce waste.
Additionally, we expanded our outreach and added new distribution partners to reach as many as possible. We successfully introduced Sunshine Meals, pre-made microwaveable meals provided to our distribution network. Our concentrated efforts on Sunshine Meals allowed us to increase our ready-to-eat meal output by five times, to provide nearly 100,000 meals annually. Our programs were skillfully adapted to accommodate safety guidelines and maintained their strong impact. We observed the significant impact our programs have in the lives of residents as we were told countless times that the community counted on us for more than nutritious food but also for social support.
We are committed to a safe workplace and doing our part to address the pandemic and require the COVID vaccine for all staff.
Envisioning a Food Secure Chester County
As we look to the future, we envision a food-secure Chester County. We plan to continue our work guided by our core values of collaboration, dedication, service, and integrity. Due to the unprecedented generosity of many during uncertain times, we increased our food distribution capacity and enhanced programming. It is uncertain whether we will receive the same quantity of generous donations as we did during a time when hunger was a public focal point. Despite these uncertainties, we remain steadfast to sustaining the increased capacity and adapting to the needs of each community as we continue our holistic and sustainable approach.