Tag Archives: meals on wheels

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 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

Say Farewell to 2017 with a Year-End Deduction to Chester County Food Bank

Before we close the books on 2017, take the opportunity to squeeze in another tax deduction by making a donation to Chester County Food Bank. No matter the size, your gift helps us to continue our mission of ending hunger insecurity for our neighbors in Chester County.

By donating to the food bank, you can help to provide nutritious, healthy food to our hungry neighbors. This year, our generous donors enabled us to distribute nearly 2.7 million pounds of food and feed more than 50,000 people in Chester County. Monetary gifts also help us to continue the important work of providing nutrition education to kids and adults, growing our Raised Bed Gardens program and delivering food to our most vulnerable citizens through Meals on Wheels and Senior Food Boxes for the elderly, as well as supplying weekend backpacks and summer food boxes to school-aged children.

Looking back at the amazing year we’ve had, we’re inspired by donors like the communities that organize around the annual Diwali Food Drive, which has brought us 116,521 pounds of food in the past 5 years. We’re also thankful for business partners like Wegmans and its Care About Hunger campaign and honored to have community partners like Mogreena, a community garden which participates in our Raised Bed Gardens program and is one of the host sites of our Fresh2You Mobile Market.

Please consider joining our community of generous donors and help us continue to pursue our mission in 2018. While we often turn our attention to ways we can help our neighbors in need during the holidays, the truth is that they can use a helping hand all throughout the year. You can donate by year’s end in a number of ways:

Thank you for considering the Chester County Food Bank when making a last-minute, tax-deductible donation. Here’s to a safe and healthy 2018!

Emily Kovach

Photos, top to bottom: Ed Williams; Balaji Studios; Ed Williams; Scott Clay

How We Help Feed Chester County’s Senior Citizens

When you think about our community’s most vulnerable citizens, it can be easy to overlook a population that can face huge struggles: senior citizens. There is a cultural stereotype of a retired couple living out their “golden years” in comfort, but this is far from the case for many of our older neighbors. Not everyone has a pension, retirement funds or extended family to rely on, and Social Security often doesn’t keep up with the increasing costs of living. Unexpected illness, car or home repairs and other unforeseen circumstances can cause huge stress—emotional, physical and financial—for senior citizens.

Claudia Rose-Muir, CCFB’s food sourcing manager, sums up the problem, saying, “The more we delve into the issues of senior hunger, and the more layers we peel back … it is astounding how sad this situation is. The decisions that seniors need make to just exist and have the basic needs of home, heat, food and medicine is hard to swallow.” Claudia shares a specific anecdote about one elderly woman she visited who had a small red microwave oven in her kitchen. “I told her I liked it, and she said with great pride, ‘I love it. It was $49 and I had to save a lot to get it, but now I can heat my food.’”

Here at the Chester County Food Bank, we are taking this growing problem very seriously and have developed programs and partnerships to address this issue. An estimated 11.5% (approximately 7500 people) of the senior population in Chester County is living in poverty, with 6.9 percent of them falling between 100 and 149 percent of the federal poverty level. We aim to help them all combat food insecurity.

Our Senior Food Box Program, supported by the Enterprise Rent-A-Car Foundation, serves nearly 500 adults, ages 60 and older, throughout the county. The boxes are filled with foods that specifically include key nutrients for seniors, such as fresh produce, whole grains and items with reduced sugar and salt. Senior Boxes are distributed every month to 25 sites, including community agencies, food pantries, senior centers and senior housing facilities. In early 2017, we were able to expand the scope of this program, growing from 480 senior boxes per month to 600 in early 2017—a 25 percent increase.

We rely on volunteers to help pack Senior Boxes, and even the little ones can get involved! To bring a smile to our seniors’ days, we offer the opportunity to kids of all ages to decorate food boxes. Boxes can be picked up by request from our facility and returned within two weeks. Please contact food@chestercountyfoodbank.org if you are interested in this activity.

We also work with Meals On Wheels (MOW) to serve seniors with mobility challenges, as well as people of any age who are homebound, handicapped or convalescing from an illness or operation. Since 2014, we’ve contracted with Meals On Wheels of Chester County to prepare, pack and store more than 14,000 meals in our commercial kitchen facility. Powered with plenty of volunteer energy, we create hot and frozen meals, using local produce whenever possible.

With the understanding that inclement weather conditions can take an even bigger toll on our senior population, we also offer Snow Boxes, which are an extension of our work with Meals On Wheels. Each Snow Box contains five shelf-stable meals, juices and snacks; these deliveries are made to all MOW recipients. That way, if bad weather prevents volunteers from delivering meals, homebound clients will have this food on hand until deliveries resume.

By focusing efforts and resources on Chester County’s senior population, we are able to serve more than 600 seniors each month. Please consider donating your time or resources to help us further increase the services we provide to our older neighbors.

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: Ed Williams

 

Feeding Families Through Government Programs

At the Chester County Food Bank (CCFB), our mission is to feed as many people as possible. We do this through different channels, like our Fresh2You mobile market, and through partnerships, such as Meals on Wheels. In addition, we also rely on two key government programs to help us fulfill our mission.

Since our opening day in November 2009, the CCFB has received funds through grants from the State Food Purchase Program (SFPP), enabling us to purchase food for the 34 agencies we support with government programs throughout the county. In 2016, we received over $300,000 from the SFPP, for which we were very grateful, especially considering that not every state has an SFPP program.

Recently, we’ve begun to survey those 34 agencies to see which items they are most in need of, and to try to supply them through SFPP funds. The CCFB also delivers all food directly to our agencies, saving them both time and costs. We aim to serve our community as efficiently and conveniently as possible.

We also receive funding through The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), a federal program in place to supplement the diets of low-income citizens. The CCFB uses those funds to source local fresh and frozen foods, including produce such as apples, carrots, squash, beans and sweet potatoes, as well as eggs, shelf-stable milks, cheese, canned goods, dry goods and frozen meats and fish.

These resources make a huge different in the lives of the recipients. Throughout the county, our food providers tell us stories about how the individuals and families who receive food from the Food Bank and through their local cupboard has helped them to survive. Phoebe Kitson-Davis, our Director for Agency and Community Partnerships, recalls one recurring example:

“Seniors have shown me their budget for the month, and at the end they have $4 left for stamps, cards and sundries—which are important to seniors. We are able to register them up for TEFAP, SFPP and our Senior Food Box Program at their local cupboard so they have a few extra dollars to send cards to their grandchildren and friends.”

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: Ed Williams (top), Chester County Food Bank

CCFB’s Top 5 FAQs (We’ve Got Answers!)

There’s a lot going on here at the Chester County Food Bank, so it’s no surprise that we receive many questions from our wonderful supporters. There is a handy FAQ page on our website, but there are a few specific questions we hear more frequently. To hopefully make things easier, we thought we’d share our top five frequently asked questions, along with some answers.

Where are you located?

Believe it or not, even though we’ve been around since 2009, people are still unsure of where we’re physically located. The answer is that our facility calls Exton home, at 650 Pennsylvania Drive to be exact (see here for detailed directions). We’ve been in this location since 2013. If you’d ever like to come visit us, we host an annual open house . This fun event is a great time to see our space and get further acquainted with our staff, volunteers and programs. We also offer tours of our space throughout the year. You can also drop off a food donation Monday – Friday from 8a-4p for a general look at our facility.

We’re often asked if our work extends into Philadelphia, and the answer to that is no. While there is definitely a lot of need in Philadelphia (and plenty of amazing organizations addressing those needs), 1 in 10 people in Chester County are facing food insecurity, and we’ve made it our mission to direct resources to our own communities. Though CCFB is situated in the middle of the county, we cover the entire county, even Southern Chester County.

What are the food items most needed by the CCFB?

The simple answer to this is that we need the same things you’re buying for your pantry. For instance, in the early fall, you’ll notice that cereals, grab-and-go snacks and other back-to-school necessities are on sale at your local grocery store. Those items are exactly what would help us most, as well! A wide range of nonperishables is always welcome, and there is an ongoing need for nutrient-rich, crowd-pleasing foods like peanut butter, canned tuna, dried pasta, canned fruit and beans.

While we’re sure that your homemade pasta sauce and jams are amazing, please note that we cannot accept homemade goods, glass jars or expired foods of any kind.

When’s the best time of year to donate food?

We understand that the winter holidays often inspire a will to give back, and Thanksgiving and Christmas are indeed very popular times for food drives. But the truth is that because people need food 365 days a year, the best time of year is anytime. Each season presents its own challenges for us to help our neighbors battle food insecurity. During the summer, when so many children can no longer count on their subsidized school lunches, we offer our Summer Food Box program. When school is back in session, we’re ready with our Weekend Backpack program for kids who might not otherwise get three meals a day. Meals on Wheels and our Senior Food Boxes help to provide nourishing food for seniors year-round, and because disasters can happen anytime, we’re always prepared with our Emergency Response meals.

Is it better to donate food or money?

Of course, we appreciate any and all donations, no matter how small and no matter in what form. But if you really want to make the most of your contribution to the mission of the Chester County Food Bank, the honest answer is money.

Food drives and donated food go a long way to help combat food insecurity in our community, but because of our access to produce auctions, farmers and wholesale deals, we can truly leverage the power of your dollars and stretch them way further than you can at the supermarket, or even at a wholesale buyer’s club. Your dollar plus our buying power can equal a lot of food to help feed our neighbors in need.

How can I volunteer?

We love getting this question! It means that people are energized and ready to come help us by giving their precious time and energy. You can volunteer as an individual or even with a group of friends, classmates or colleagues! There are many ways to get involved, and find a volunteer opportunity that matches your skills and interests.

Many avid (and amateur) gardeners find satisfaction in volunteering with our Raised Bed Garden program, or helping harvest at local farms whom we’ve partnered with.

Love to cook? We have plenty of opportunities to volunteer in our kitchen, or to introduce children and adults to new foods and cooking techniques through our fun and interactive Taste It! program.

Check our ever-evolving volunteer schedule to view and sign up for volunteer shifts.

If you still have questions, please refer to our FAQ page, or contact us at (610) 873-6000 or contact@chestercountyfoodbank.org.

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: Ed Williams (second), Chester County Food Bank (first and third); Ed Williams

What Is Food Insecurity?

A fully stocked fridge after a trip to the grocery store; a farmer’s market bag stuffed with leafy greens and plump tomatoes; a fruit bowl, spilling over with sweet, ripening fruit: the sensation of abundance is a basic human pleasure. But for so many of our neighbors—more than 50,000 in fact, including 18,000-plus children—this is a feeling they rarely enjoy.

Instead of food wealth, their experience is food insecurity. At Chester County Food Bank, we broadly define food insecurity as “a household that is without reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable and nutritious food at any given time.” Though Chester County is the wealthiest county in Pennsylvania, this remains a serious issue for many of our residents.

Food insecurity lies at the heart of CCFB’s mission to mobilize our community to ensure access to real, healthy food. There are numerous reasons why a family may experience food insecurity, either for a few tight months or for years at a time. This situation may be related to unexpected unemployment, a sudden health crisis or disability, or simply a struggle to make ends meet. As of the 2015 American Community Survey, Chester County has 7.1 percent of the population living below the federal poverty level, or approximately 35,000 people. Each family’s complex scenario is the driving force behind our diverse programs.

From Meals on Wheels meal preparation and distribution for seniors on fixed incomes, to our Summer Food Boxes that help bridge the gap for children who rely on free or reduced-price school meals to our Fresh2You Mobile Market, which brings affordable produce to areas where fresh food is scarce, each one of our programs is aimed at solving food insecurity in Chester County.

With the help of our amazing volunteers, committed Community Partners, supportive staff and generous donors, every day brings us one step closer to ensuring that no one in our communities lives with the uneasiness or fear of not knowing where their next meal is coming from.

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: Ed Williams