Tag Archives: community partner

Meet the Community Partner: West Chester University Resource Pantry

At the Chester County Food Bank, our mission is to mobilize the community to ensure access to real, healthy food.  Although we have programs that focus on supporting children, families and senior citizens, the truth is that there are vulnerable people across all demographics.

A specific demographic that might not come to mind is college students. It’s a mistake to assume that just because someone got accepted into an institution of higher learning, he or she doesn’t have to worry about food. Yes, most colleges have meal plans, but there are many students — both traditional and non-traditional — who struggle to eat enough food each day. In fact, according to a 2017 study published by Temple University, 36 percent of college students disclosed some level of food insecurity.

One way that we’re working to address this problem is through our partnership with the West Chester University Resource Pantry. This on-campus resource, which opened in September 2016, aims to “eliminate barriers to degree completion for students with financial need by providing access to resources, while empowering students to learn independent living skills and achieve long-term stability,” according to its website. The WCU Resource Pantry is open to all enrolled undergraduate and graduate students, with no proof of income necessary. Students don’t need an appointment; they’re welcome to simply walk in during the hours of operation to look for nonperishable food, fresh produce from the campus gardens, personal care items, school supplies and winter and career clothing.

Kate Colyer, M.A., assistant director of Service-Learning and Volunteer Programs, is one of the key staff involved with the WCU Resource Pantry. She says that CCFB’s involvement has been invaluable for the establishment and growth of the pantry.

“Chester County Food Bank has been our strongest advocates,” she noted. “They were integral to engaging in conversations with my office and the Office of Financial Aid and some other community stakeholders before we opened. Now they allow us to come shopping at the Food Bank as often as we need to supplement our food item shelves.”

We’ve also helped the WCU Resource Pantry apply for AmeriCorps Vista grants, and members of our staff sit on the pantry’s advisory board. Kate says that she’s in contact with CCFB staff — like Claudia Rose-Muir, Direct Distribution & Procurement Manager, and Phoebe Kitson-Davis, Director of Agency & Community Partnerships — on a weekly basis. One instance of how we’ve helped problem-solve with the pantry is with inventory management.

“Inventory management and sourcing has a been a huge challenge for us because we are so new,” Kate explained. “CCFB has spent time on the phone and have come out to consult how to effectively lay out our spaces. They also helped us decided to purchase technology to manage our inventory.”

The inventory at the WCU Resource Pantry comes from a number of community partners, and whether it’s food, toilet paper, a nice blazer for job interviews or printer paper, the goal is to provide a comfortable, shame-free place where anyone can come to ask for help. Located in the ground level of a residence hall adjacent to the student health center, the Resource Pantry was recently renovated to improve the student experience even more.

“We’re increasing the dignity [of the experience] with shelves, lounge furniture, etc., that make it feel like real shopping,” Kate said. “We’re building relationships with our students. Once we have their trust, we ask them how they feel about the experience — and take their feedback.”

She notes that at first, the Resource Pantry staff was perhaps overly sensitive to diffusing the stigma that some students might feel in asking for help, and were extremely cautious to make sure there was ample confidentiality and the space was discreet. But, she says, they’ve learned that this made the space too hard to find, and have evolved to address that.

“The more that we’ve been open and transparent and trying to empower our students and help raise awareness, we’re helping to destigmatize the experience,” she said. “A lot of students seem more than happy to tell their peers that they shop here.”

Throughout the span of the 2017 academic school year, the Resource Pantry served 487 students. So far in 2018 (its third year in operation), the pantry has served 452 unique students, and has distributed nearly 6,000 pounds of food, 5,800 personal care products, more than 1,000 school supplies, 123 items of professional attire and 80 winter items. And that’s just between late August and late November of 2018! It’s clear that the Resource Pantry is addressing a real need on campus, and that as awareness grows, even more students will be able to find what they need to succeed in school — whether that’s food each week or a snack on a day they forgot their wallet.

We’re proud to support and work with this dynamic, innovative pantry. It’s just one more way that we’re fighting hunger in our community.

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

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

Emily Kovach

Photos: WCU Resource Pantry

Meet the Community Partner: Wegmans

The Chester County Food Bank is largely able to accomplish its goal of combating food insecurity in our communities thanks to donations from generous individuals, the dedication of our volunteers and our amazing staff. Additionally, there are some larger organizations and companies whose continued support has given us significant boosts to achieve the goals set forth in our mission.

One of these companies is Wegmans, a chain of family-owned grocery stores located across the East Coast. Community involvement is a big part of the Wegmans brand, and we are very fortunate to have developed a strong relationship with two of its Chester County locations.

Through various initiatives, the Downingtown Wegmans and Malvern Wegmans together have donated more than three-quarters of a million dollars ($736,702 to be exact!) to the Chester County Food Bank since 2010.

Anne Shuniak, CCFB’s marketing and communications manager, says, “Wegmans is our most dedicated grocery store partner, contributing time, talent and treasure.”

Each year from October through December, Wegmans hosts the Care About Hunger (also called Check Out Hunger or Food2Feed, regionally) campaign across its stores. This initiative encourages customers and employees to contribute single-digit monetary donations at checkout, and is a great example of how small measures can really add up. Because Wegmans is such a high-volume grocery store, even $1 or $5 donations can add up to an amazing number if enough people get on board. Last year, Wegmans presented CCFB with a check for $152,793 at the end of the campaign!

 

This year’s Care About Hunger campaign kicked off October 22 and will run through December 23. The Downingtown and Malvern stores have set a lofty goal to beat last year’s number, and believe that if people work together, they can accomplish anything they put their minds to.

In addition to the Care About Hunger program, Wegmans donates a tractor trailer full of food at least once a year and volunteers with us throughout the year. We also have a partnership with the Wegmans Culinary Team, who helps prepare meals for our Emergency Response Program.

So much of this strong partnership between Wegmans and CCFB is thanks to Jose Frazer, an area service manager with Wegmans, who has been committed to us since the beginning. In October 2017 Jose took his support of CCFB to the next level and joined our board of directors.

“The cool thing is that the Food Bank and Wegmans share the same values,” said Frazer. “Ultimately, my success at Wegmans is because I have those values, too—helping out the community, community service and just helping other people—that’s what we do. We want to make sure people are healthy, have work/life balance … for me, being on the Food Bank board just brings it full circle.”

We are so thankful for Jose’s and Wegmans’ continued dedication to our friends and neighbors in need in Chester County!

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: Chester County Food Bank (first two photos); Ed Williams

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

Meet the Community Partner: La Comunidad Hispana

Here at the Chester County Food Bank, our mission is to end food insecurity in the communities in our county. It’s an ambitious goal — the problem of hunger is a complex one, touching on economics, access to food, nutrition and cooking education, advocacy, legislative policy and so much more. While our organization is going nine years strong and has accomplished so much during that time, we definitely can’t tackle these issues alone. It’s thanks to our strong bonds and relationships with community partners that we’re able to continue reaching our neighbors in need in effective, sustainable ways.

One such community partner is La Comunidad Hispana (LCH), a diverse, bilingual Federally Qualified Health Center in southern Chester County. Its mission is to “change lives by serving southern Chester County as the leading provider of integrated health and community services.” Founded in 1973 by Peggy Harris and Margarita Quiñones with the support of Kennett Square residents, clergy and advocates, LCH set forth to serve the needs of the primarily Latino population who came to the region to find jobs in the mushroom industry. LCH was established as a place where vulnerable adults and families could go for health and medical issues large and small.

Now, more than 40 years later, the committed, passionate team at LCH continues this mission at various sites: its Health and Community Services office and Dental Center in Kennett Square, its Community Health Center in Oxford and its brand-new Women’s Health Center in West Grove. The Women’s Health Center is an exciting new development for LCH; all of its women’s health services will be provided out of this office, and with an additional provider added to the staff, the organization will be able to serve more women than ever.

CCFB’s relationship with LCH began about five years ago, when we started our EatFresh program. During that time, we sought organizations to partner with, specifically health clinics in the county.

“LCH was one of those, and the idea was that they were connecting with food-insecure families whom we believed we could teach some basic healthy cooking options to and also be able to give them some fresh produce at the end of each class,” said Wendy Gaynor, director of Food Security Initiatives at Chester County Food Bank. “It turns out that the people [served by LCH] have a wealth of knowledge surrounding cooking, so what we’re now doing is building community. They’re coming for the produce, for the connection and to have an experience together. They get to come together with other people and enjoy good food.”

We’re still working with LCH on EatFresh, and are pleased to announce that we’re extending our partnership with them to offer the Fruit & Vegetable Prescription (FVRx) program to some of the families there. Families are identified through the clinic and are given “prescriptions,” which are like vouchers that can be redeemed for fresh produce at CCFB’s Fresh2You Truck.

These components of our partnership exemplify just what makes LCH so special. It’s not simply there to administer medical treatment and services — aims to serve the holistic health of the families and individuals it serves. One example of this is LCH’s Family Fitness Program. It piloted this program two years ago, with the support of the Edna G. Kynett Memorial Foundation, and has been such a success, LCH decided to continue it.

“The goal of the program is to provide intensive health interventions for families with children at risk of chronic disease (such as heart disease and diabetes), based on overweight/obese status,” explained LeeAnn Riloff, director of Development at LCH. “We enroll the entire family into the program and over the course of a year, offer them regular clinical check-ins, health education, consultation with a nutritionist, free healthy food bags and fitness equipment and deeply discounted family YMCA memberships.” The families also receive access to LCH’s special programs, including walking/running groups and the FVRx partnership with CCFB. LCH also hosts three raised beds that are part of our Raised Bed Garden Program — these help to supplement the fresh produce CCFB brings to on-site EatFresh classes.

“These food bank programs are critical elements of the program for us,” said LeeAnn. “Our nutritionist can give families advice to eat lots of fruits and vegetables instead of loads of empty carbs, but unless they can access the produce and know how to use it, it isn’t all that useful!”

La Comunidad Hispana is just one of the many community partners we work with, and is such an important resource for the communities of southern Chester County. To learn more about its mission, visit its website and Facebook page.

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

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

Emily Kovach

Featured photo: La Comunidad Hispana; all other photos, top to bottom: La Comunidad Hispana, Chester County Food Bank (next two photos), La Comunidad Hispana

Meet the Community Partner: Octorara Area Food Cupboard

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Want to learn moreSign up for our newsletter and stay connected. You can also donate foodfunds and time to help us achieve our mission. Call (610) 873-6000 to speak to someone about getting involved or to request a tour. Thanks to you, we’re growing a healthier community.

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

Emily Kovach

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

A Fresh Partnership: Downingtown Farmers Market & Fresh2You

There’s nothing like wandering around a farmers’ market on a Saturday morning, perusing lovely heaps of product, chatting with farmers, vendors and neighbors, and soaking up the community vibes. It’s a pleasure enjoyed by lots of people, and yet remains inaccessible to so many. Access to farm-fresh food is at the heart of Chester County Food Bank’s mission, and is why we’re committed to our Fresh2You Mobile Market that brings produce to the people. It’s also why we’ve partnered with the Downingtown Farmers Market to offer an exciting new way to help lower-income neighbors combat food insecurity while gaining access to the wonderful world of farmers’ markets.

This year, Downingtown Farmers Market is the first and only farmers’ market in Chester County to accept EBT/SNAP (food stamps). That means that many of our community’s lower-income families are now able to shop directly from farmers for fruits and veggies, bread, dairy and more. We’re helping stretch those funds even further by offering an incentive program for EBT/SNAP shoppers. Every time an EBT/SNAP customer uses the card to make a SNAP approved purchase, he or she will be given Fresh2You Veggie Bucks, dollar for dollar, up to $10. Veggie Bucks can be used just like cash for future purchases of vegetables and fruit at the Downingtown Farmers Market. That means more gorgeous August corn and tomatoes, more September squashes and more October apples.

Lisa ONeill, the owner of Growing Roots Partners, the company that runs the Downingtown, Malvern and Eagleview Farmers’ Markets, says she’s been working for a year and a half to get the Downingtown Farmers Market approved for the EBT/SNAP program. The process required cutting through federal government red tape and applying for different grants for the equipment (iPads, card swipers and the apps). Finally, in June, thanks to the help of Lisa’s assistant Juliana Pash, the first few vendors began accepting the EBT/SNAP payments. Currently, produce, meat, dairy and bread vendors are set up with the payment system, and that list will expand in the coming months.

“Growing Roots Partners gets no money out of this,” Lisa said. “I just feel that farmers’ markets become an integral part of a community, and when a community has needs that we can address, I feel that’s our responsibility.”

Lisa explains that this relationship between Growing Roots Partner and the Chester County Food Bank has been strengthening for years. For the last four years, we’ve allowed the Eagleview Farmers Market to winter indoors in our warehouse from December through March.

To return the favor, Growing Roots Partners has given back to us: One year they did a one-ton spaghetti collection drive (they ended up collecting almost two tons!), and it’s now a tradition that they’ve brought a farmers’ market into our yearly open house events. Most recently, they held a fun family film screening at the Eagleview Farmers Market, the Ratatouille Hullabalooie, with proceeds donated to CCFB.

“This relationship is extremely strong … we’d love to continue to do that in other communities,” Lisa said. “We want to go into communities that have pockets of need and offer access to fresh produce, eggs, meat, you name it.”

We agree! The Downingtown Farmers Market, now in its sixth year, is such a great example of how farmers markets become an inextricable part of a community’s fabric. It’s a yearlong market that is held every Saturday morning in Kerr Park from 9 a.m.–1 p.m. and boasts dozens of vendors. Produce is on offer, of course, from locals like Frecon Farms and Old Homestead Farm, but there is so much more, too! Meat, dairy and eggs, sweets, treats, artisan pickles and vinegars and even dog treats are all available from local, independent vendors.

“Farmers markets cut out the middleman,” Lisa explained. “Farmers get fair prices for their food … it strengthens the whole community’s food system.”

Among the many weekly shoppers at the Downingtown Farmers Market is the town’s mayor, Josh Maxwell. “The Farmers Market has been a welcomed addition to the Downingtown community. Their partnership with the Chester County Food Bank further extenuates the Good Neighbor reputation we cherish,” he said.

Visit the Downingtown Farmers Market to enjoy all it has to offer, and be sure to help spread the word about the new EBT/SNAP program. We can’t wait to see even more of our neighbors there on Saturday mornings!

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. Check out our full Fresh2Market schedule here.  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 (first two); Priscilla White

Meet Our Community Partner: Paul Wilkinson of Mogreena

Nestled into a little corner of Modena is Waste Oil Recyclers, a green company that picks up used cooking oil from restaurants and recycles it into biodiesel. Another company, Organic Mechanics, shares the property as well; they make organic potting soil, compost and other gardening products. These two eco-minded entities have apportioned some of their compound for container gardens, an initiative they call the Mogreena Garden Project.

Mogreena consists of nearly half an acre of container garden plots, peppered across the old industrial property. The garden manager is Paul Wilkinson, a part-time employee of Waste Oil Recyclers (he’s also a musician!), who’s been a fixture of the project for some time. Paul began as an employee at Organic Mechanics as a production manager, and enjoyed growing veggies in the containers that some of the other garden-minded employees constructed in 2009. Mogreena became an official nonprofit project in 2013, and Paul became the garden manager in 2016. “Just as the gardens have grown, I grew with them, and took the position when it became available,” he says.

In addition to being a cool project, Mogreena is a community partner of the Chester County Food Bank. Paul plants the garden beds each season with seeds and starters from our Raised Bed Gardens Program, which he says is an enormous logistical and financial help. “It’s huge—working with the Food Bank helps immensely to keep all the gears moving.”

Mogreena then pays it forward by donating back hundreds of pounds of harvested produce to us, to help continue our mission of providing healthful food to our neighbors in need. Mogreena is also host to our Fresh2You Mobile Market on Thursdays from 1:30 – 3:00pm.

Paul is tasked with helping Mogreena to flourish—not just the gardens, but also the community that’s sprung up around the project. Mogreena works with the Coatesville Youth Initiative, an organization that places high school students in different companies to gain work experience in the summertime. Mogreena oversees four students for eight weeks in the summer, and Paul works with the teens, teaching them gardening skills, as well as problem-solving, teamwork and personal responsibility.

One Tuesday per month, Mogreena hosts Garden Nights, where volunteers are invited to come help harvest produce, enjoying a meal and live music as they work. Summer fresh fruits and veggies like chard, kale, lettuce, beets, squash, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, peppers and okra are pulled from their earthy beds, and while some is donated to CCFB, some is saved for the Coatesville Youth Initiative kids. In addition to gardening, cooking education is part of their experience, too. They are taught how to prepare and cook all kinds of dishes with their harvest—sometimes even under the supervision of real chefs.

“Since Waste Oil picks up the veggie oil from different restaurants, we’ve had different chefs come out and cook for the kids,” Paul notes. “Chefs from High Street Café, Tired Hands, La Cabra Brewing … it really helps the kids see what the garden food can become.” In July, chef Alex Shimpeno of Shimpy’s BBQ visited (read a recap written by the kids here), as did chef John Hearn of La Cabra Brewing Company. La Cabra made a great video to recap the day, which you can check out here. Every October, Paul helps to organize an end-of-season Harvest Art Party; this year’s event will take place on Tuesday, October 17 from 5:30-8:30 p.m. and will feature local artists, music, wine tastings and food. Keep an eye on Mogreena’s Facebook page for more info and updates about this inspiring CCFB community partner!

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

Photos, top to bottom: Scott Clay; Mogreena (next three photos); Scott Clay; Mogreena