Tag Archives: food bank

Get to Know the Chester County Food Bank

Whether you’re a regular visitor to our website or this is your first time here, we want to take a moment to say thank you: for caring about your community, prioritizing food insecurity and giving back to your neighbors in need. We know there are many demands on your time and your dollar — as always, we urge you to keep your giving local whenever possible — and we appreciate your consideration of Chester County Food Bank as a place to donate your resources.

If you are a newer supporter or just need a quick refresher, here’s a little bit of background about CCFB:

 

For nearly a decade, we’ve been a force for positive change in Chester County, addressing the needs of a population that isn’t always visible in one of the wealthiest counties in Pennsylvania. We don’t simply distribute food — we search for ways to make a lasting impact on our community, disrupt the cycles of economic instability, create sustainable systems and empower individuals and families.

Some of the ways we do this are through educational initiatives, such as:

  • Taste It! and Eat Fresh: Taste It! is a series of volunteer-led food demonstrations that give people an opportunity to try new foods, especially fresh produce. Eat Fresh is a series of cooking and nutrition classes for youth and adults at risk for food insecurity. These six-week courses give attendees the tools and confidence to choose and cook healthy food for themselves and their families.
  • FRESHstart Kitchen: This new, 14-week program is designed to educate and prepare low-income residents for opportunities and sustainable employment in the food service industry. Led by two amazing staff members, FRESHstart Kitchen assists individuals with limited work experience and significant personal challenges — including substance abuse and criminal records — and provides self empowerment skills to help address challenges entering or reentering the workforce.
  • Bilingual resources: As we investigate ways to reach all of the diverse communities in Chester County, we’ve added staff members to help with bilingual outreach and translation for Spanish-speaking populations, and partnered with La Comunidad Hispana, a diverse, bilingual Federally Qualified Health Center in southern Chester County. There, we offer Eat Fresh classes and, for some families, the Fruit & Vegetable Prescription (FVRx) program, which distributes prescription vouchers that can be redeemed for fresh produce at CCFB’s mobile Fresh2You truck.

We certainly do collect a lot of food (which makes its way to dozens of community organizations and food pantries in Chester County), both from individual donors and groups, as well as through our own methods of growing fresh produce. Here are a few examples:

  • We grow our own food! CCFB has its own five-acre plot of farm land 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. Our farm, led by a talented and dedicated farming expert with the help of hundreds of volunteers, grows all kinds of veggies, which go right to individuals, families and senior citizens in our community.
  • Our Raised Bed Farm Program, which has a series of gardens at over 110 host sites — such as schools, corporations, senior centers and churches — that harvests enough produce to constitute 33% of the fresh produce that we distribute. In total, between our farm, these garden plots, and our hauls from local produce auctions, we’re able to distribute over one million pounds of fresh produce each year to our member agencies!
  • Of course, we also rely on local food drives for fresh and nonperishable donations. From the folks behind the Diwali Food Drive to our Annual PB&J Drive (a friendly competition that mobilizes hundreds of people to collect jars of peanut butter and jelly donations to help keep Chester County kids fed throughout the summer), we are always amazed at the creative, passionate and generous ways that people are able to organize and combine their talents and time.  

This is just a small taste of all of things Chester County Food Bank is able to do thanks to people like you! But just because the winter holidays have wrapped up doesn’t mean we’re all set for the year. We rely on donors and volunteers year-round to achieve our mission of mobilizing our community to ensure access to real, healthy food. Will you join us in 2019 to help create a healthier Chester County?

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.

Emily Kovach

Photos: Chester County Food Bank

 

 

Food Bank & Food Pantry: Is There Really a Difference?

Though we’ve been around for nearly a decade, here at the Chester County Food Bank, we notice that there is still sometimes confusion — even among some of our most dedicated supporters — about exactly what we do and how we differ from food pantries and cupboards. We thought it might be helpful to explain here and define some terminology to help clarify!

Some of the issues come from blurry definitions of the terms “food bank” and “food pantry.” When you think of the archetypal, cultural idea of a food bank, perhaps featured on a holiday episode of a television show, it may be of a family picking up a box of food from a church basement or community center. In fact, that scenario is really taking place at a food pantry (or cupboard), where individuals can go during set hours to obtain food. Usually, these locations are staffed by volunteers, and their mission to simply get food into the hands of those who are in need.

Chester County Food Bank, as our name implies, is a food bank, the hub which provides nutritious items to food cupboards. We are a centralized hunger relief organization, taking in donations from many sources, organizing and storing them in our warehouse and then redistributing items to food pantries, which we refer to as our “member agencies.” While we don’t provide boxes of food directly to individuals, we still encourage anyone who needs food to contact us, as we are more than happy to connect you with the many resources within our county that can help.

Part of our role as a food bank (versus a cupboard) is that we take a strategic, holistic approach to combating food insecurity. Yes, distributing food to local cupboards is part of this, but we go even further, with advocacy and educational initiatives like Taste It! and Eat Fresh, supplemental feeding programs for school-aged children and seniors, emergency response food boxes and our Raised Bed Garden Program, which is part of the reason that we can provide so much fresh food to local cupboards.

While we are affiliated with a number of community partners, we are an independent organization. So if you’re considering donating and you want your dollars to stay in Chester County, please note that we are the only food bank in the county. While we are one of the wealthiest counties in Pennsylvania, there are many, many households in our community without reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable and nutritious food at any given time.

We hope this has been a helpful explanation of how we — a food bank — are different from a food pantry. We think of it like this: Chester County Food Bank is the hub in the center of a wheel, and all of the spokes reach out to our member agencies that can connect one-on-one with the neighbors in need in Chester County.

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

Peeling the Onion: The 411 on the Chester County Food Bank

Now in its sixth year of operation, the Chester County Food Bank has always been on a dedicated mission to end hunger in Chester County, but do you know how we do it, what we promote or how the education that we provide benefits the community?

There are many life-changing layers of this onion to peel. The Food Bank does so much more than collect canned goods, sort fresh produce and raise awareness of the need to help close to 50,000 people. Take a look at the snapshot below.

The Who

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A dedicated board of directors and a tireless staff work together with enthusiastic volunteers to come up with ways to benefit local communities through:

  • The collection and distribution of fresh food and nonperishable items throughout the county, including “food desert” areas.
  • The education of our communities on the benefits of food access, healthy food preparation and teaching healthy cooking habits.
  • Providing the means to organize and promote successful food drives with schools, businesses, organizations and individuals.
  • Providing maps and lists of food cupboards, soup kitchens and other hot meal sites for those in need and those who wish to help.

The How

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It takes a tremendous amount of people-power to bring about positive change in Chester County. Take a look at just a few examples of how the Food Bank makes an impact.

Food Drives: Schools, corporations and personal food drives are a valuable resource to acquire much-needed nonperishable items to stock the shelves of the distribution center.

Raised Bed Gardens: a network of over 100 garden sites provides fresh produce to local food cupboards from May through November.

Farming: Partnerships with local farms like Pete’s Produce Farm and Springton Manor Farm are essential in providing fresh produce to the Food Bank for distribution.

Commercial Kitchen: This first stop is where food is cleaned, sorted and packaged by a core team of hard-working volunteers.

Distribution: The Food Bank operates from its sole facility in Exton, where food arrives from local farms, corporations, individuals and government programs to be prepped for over 120 cupboards, pantries and partners that are located throughout Chester County.

Food Sourcing: The Chester County Food Bank uses its financial resources to purchase perishable and nonperishable food for those in need throughout the year.

Education: The Food Bank teaches the community about the importance of healthy eating through Nutrition Education programs, recipes, cooking classes and the Fresh2You Mobile Market.

The Why

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  • Be informed. Did you know that a single parent working to sustain a minimum wage job would need to work 80 hours per week to sustainably live in this area? Are you aware that at least 1 in 14 people in Chester County is food insecure, meaning that they lack reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food? Check out the Food Bank’s website or “like” the Food Bank on Facebook for community facts, promotions and donation and volunteer opportunities.
  • Donate. It’s no surprise that it takes time and money to help our neighbors. Every little bit helps. Donate today!

As you can see, there are many layers of the Chester County Food Bank. Fortunately, because of neighbors like you the Food Bank can continue to make a difference in our community by providing assistance for individuals and families in need. Want to learn more? Schedule a tour or request a speaker for your next community or corporate meeting.

The Chester County Food Bank is located at 650 Pennsylvania Dr. in Exton; phone: (610) 873-6000.