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Meet the Team: Amy Rossman and Chef Ranney Moran of FRESHstart Kitchen

We’re so excited to introduce you two Chester County Food Bank team members, Amy Rossman and chef Ranney Moran, both of whom are instrumental in our brand-new program FRESHstart Kitchen™ (FRESH is an acronym that stands for Focusing Resources on Employment, Self-Sufficiency and Health). FRESHstart Kitchen is a culinary workforce training and development initiative and launched its inaugural class on September 10, 2018.

FRESHstart’s mission is to assist people from our communities who have limited work experience, modest academic skills and other barriers to steady employment, including substance abuse and criminal records. Throughout the 5-days-per-week, 14-week program, participants will gain life skills, self-awareness, professional development and hands-on culinary training, all with the goal to help them successfully enter or reenter the workforce.

This ambitious and important program would not be possible without the two employees at its helm. Here’s a bit more about Amy and Ranney.

Amy Rossman, Workforce Development Manager

Amy Rossman came to us from a Community Connections program in Montgomery County; before that, she worked for eight years at the Pottstown Cluster of Religious Communities, a food pantry and clothing closet. During that time, she worked with low- to no-income people in her community, and over the years worked her way up to second in command. “I had an opportunity to help people in economic poverty achieve awareness about resources in the community and to empower the people coming into the food pantry to recognize and affirm who they are as people,” she said.

Amy originally came to CCFB to interview for a different position, but as soon as she heard about the workforce development manager position, she knew that job was perfect for her skill set and interests. She started at CCFB in late June 2018. A major part of Amy’s job is running the responsibility and self-empowerment workshops for the FRESHstart participants. “What gets me excited is working with people and really listening to what their journey has been and where they want to be,” she said. “Often when people are living in economic poverty, their voices are not heard, and we can’t learn from them. [I want to help] facilitate all of those moving pieces and the direction in which they want to go, and affirm that journey for them.”

The workshops take place in the morning, and during that time, Amy helps the participants to focus on skills like mock interviewing, creating a resume and cover letter, setting expectations for going out into the job field and journaling to process the lessons and events of the day. The last two weeks of the course are almost entirely devoted to workforce development, as the participants will be just about ready to launch their new careers. Also, Amy points out, once the program wraps up, the participants aren’t left to fend for themselves. “We’ll follow folks for up to two years to track them and see how they’re doing.”

People who are interested in the FRESHstart program may reach out directly to Amy at (610) 873-6000, ext.127. The application process requires completing the application, sending in additional materials like a photo ID and a letter, recommendation or referral and completing an interview and then a two-day trial in CCFB’s kitchen.

Chef Ranney Moran, Director of Culinary Programs

Ranney Moran studied at The French Culinary Institute (now called the International Culinary Center) in New York City, where he graduated in 2012. He worked in Manhattan kitchens for a few years before embarking in 2014 on a 6-month excursion through Southeast Asia, including stops in Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, Laos and China. Much of that time was spent traveling and eating, though he got some work in, too, running a pop-up restaurant in Bangkok for a few weeks.

After returning to America, he worked in the Hamptons at The Surf Lodge and then in Woodstock, New York, at The Bear Cafe and Commune Saloon. It was during that time that he first considered the concept of a culinary training program. “Because of the opioid epidemic and rampant addiction in the hospitality industry, I had a really hard time finding qualified staff in Woodstock,” Ranney remembered. “I wanted to use the kitchen as an opportunity not to fire people, but to promote them.” He promoted his dishwasher to prep cook and his prep cook to sous chef, and found that extra attention and responsibility, plus wraparound support like NA meetings, helped people recovering from addiction to maintain sobriety.

During the winter of 2016, when the tourist season died down in Woodstock, Ranney moved back to Philadelphia, where he is originally from. He worked for a bit as a personal chef for some families in Chester County, and in his free time, started volunteering in the kitchen at CCFB. During this time, he’d investigated trying to start a culinary workforce training program, but ran into some barriers, like funding and finding wraparound support. He continued to do research, sometimes traveling to visiting other organizations with similar programs and collecting data. Through his volunteer experience at CCFB, he learned that this exact type of program was part of CCFB’s future growth goals.

“It was the lightbulb moment,” he said. “I saw a great opportunity to create more meals and serve more people. The program has so much personal meaning for me — it’s everything I’ve really ever dreamed of.”

He presented his collected data and research to some of the CCFB in the beginning of 2018, and was hired that February. In the time since then and the program’s September launch, Ranney and some other staffers have visited other programs, like Rhode Island Community Food Bank and DC Central Kitchen, components of which are used as models for FRESHstart Kitchen. Ranney also worked to recruit people for the first FRESHstart cohort, putting up flyers all over the county and meeting with United Way at the Financial Literacy Center, while Amy gave presentations to regional networks. They were able to find 5 suitable applicants to be part of the first FRESHstart group, though they hope to grow it closer to 10 in the future.

Chef Ranney’s day with the students involves a ServSafe Manager course (a food safety certification), culinary theory, recipe reviews, technique discussions and tutorials and daily hands-on work in the kitchen, where each student has their own station with their own burner. “The first thing we cover is the mise en place, which is your clean uniform, your sharp knife, all your ingredients cut the way it needs to be and your station clean and organized,” he explained.

The culinary curriculum covers everything from basic knife skills and hygiene to kitchen safety. Each week revolves around a theme, such as breakfast cookery, stocks, soups and sauces, poultry, fish and meats. Ranney and another chef instructor demonstrate techniques and plating and by the end of each day, each student is expected to be able to put together the same dish.

Weeks 10, 11 and 12 of the program are for internship placements, and Ranney is establishing relationships and partnerships with area restaurants, grocery stores, fish markets and butcher shops, fast casual cafes and large food producers. “Building a network of industry partners, I want to be able to present the students with a list of options,” he said. He says his main hope for the program grads is for them to earn a $15 minimum wage. “I’m hoping they’ll be able to find a job at that level,” he asserted. “I want them to be able advocate for themselves, to know their value and worth.”

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: Chester County Food Bank

Meet the Team: Solange Noguera

From maintaining our warehouse to managing our partner farm sites, we rely on our dedicated staff for everything we do at Chester County Food Bank. We would never be able to reach as many of our neighbors in need, and keep everything running smoothly and efficiently, without them!

As the county population continues to grow, we’ve added people to our team staff who can help us connect to and communicate with all of the people that we serve. One of these people is Solange Noguera (she goes by Sol), our bilingual outreach educator, who is instrumental to our work with the Spanish-speaking communities in the county.

Sol began working for CCFB in May 2018. Prior to CCFB, she was a teller at a local federal credit union. She is happy with the career change, and says it’s hard to pick just one thing that she loves about her job at the Food Bank.

“Working for CCFB has been a complete 180 from my other jobs,” she said. “The biggest difference is that I’m actually making a difference in people’s lives. I’m looking out and keeping the communities’ interest in mind, whereas with my other jobs, I was working to help a company or companies that I really did not care about.”

The position, which works with several of CCFB’s programs and initiatives (including Fresh2You and the Fruit and Vegetable Prescription Program), does include its own set of challenges.

“The challenging aspect of the job is remembering that I am one person and can’t take on a lot of projects,” Sol admitted. “I would love to be able to be in multiple places and do multiple things at once, but I still haven’t figured out how to do that. So for now, I have to focus and give my best to the things I am involved with.”

Through her work with us, CCFB has been able to better accommodate the needs of the Hispanic/Latino population in Chester County, as well as build better relationships with them.

“The amazing part is that there is still so much more room to grow, and I am super excited to be a small part of it,” Sol said.

In the future, Sol anticipates reaching an even bigger immigrant population and setting up programs that will allow them to grow and feel part of the Chester County community.

“I also envision that we will be able to incorporate many more members of the community into our classes and programs (as trainers or facilitators), so that the community is giving back to the community,” she noted.

Outside of work, Sol, who lives in Malvern, enjoys outdoor activities, like hiking the many trails through Chester County, as well as biking and swimming. She also likes being in the kitchen.

“I really enjoy cooking and incorporating veggies I have never used in my plates,” she said. “Most of all, I enjoy doing all these things with family and friends.”

We are grateful to have Sol as a part of the Chester County Food Bank staff, and for her enthusiasm, passion and community-centered mindset. Thanks for being part of our team, Sol!

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, top to bottom: Chester County Food Bank; Chester County Intermediate Unit; Chester County Food Bank

Meet the Team: A Q&A with CCFB Farmer Bill Shick

We’re proud of lots of our accomplishments here at Chester County Food Bank. One thing that we think is pretty special is how much fresh produce we’re able to supply to our neighbors in need across Chester County. Often, when people think “food bank” or “food pantry,” they imagine cans of food and dried goods lining the shelves. Of course, nonperishable items are an essential component of what we provide, but as fresh food is paramount to good nutrition, it’s a remarkable thing that we’re able to distribute over one million pounds of fresh produce each year.

Some of this produce comes from local produce auctions, where our buying power can stretch your donations to incredible lengths. Some comes from the efforts of our Raised Bed Garden Program, which happens each year across 100 growing sites staffed by dedicated volunteers. But what you might not realize is that a large amount of our fresh produce comes from a farm plot, staffed by Bill Shick, CCFB’s Director of Agriculture Program.

Bill works on a five-acre farm plot 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. With the help of hundreds of volunteers, Bill grows all kinds of veggies at the farm, which go right to individuals, families and senior citizens in our community.

Recently, Bill took some time away from his busy schedule out in the fields to chat with us and share a bit more about himself.

When did you start working for CCFB? What did you do before that?

Bill Shick: In March 2013. Before that, I was the urban agriculture and facilities director at the Share Food Program in Philadelphia. I have been farming off and on since 2000, with a few years of environmental consulting thrown in.

What do you love about farming? What can be challenging about it?

I enjoy being outside, physically active, the planning ahead and working toward a goal — and also the frequent instant gratification of fieldwork. I like using my plant and soil science degree and 14 years of farming experience to tackle day-to-day and seasonal challenges on the farm. Every year is different, and that keeps it interesting.

The challenges include long hours, hot weather, the physical toll on your body, insects, diseases, marauding animals and mechanical problems with equipment.

Why do you enjoy working for CCFB? Is it different from other farming jobs that you’ve had?

I enjoy the fact that what we work so hard to grow is going to those who truly need it and appreciate it. Local produce is often expensive and out of reach for many of those with lower incomes. I also enjoy our partnerships with Pete’s, the county park system and the Camphill community in Kimberton. I’m excited to offer volunteers an opportunity to serve their community, meet new people and learn about farming

There are major differences farming for a nonprofit. The biggest is the daily use of mostly unskilled labor rather than an experienced field crew. Volunteers are almost always willing to work in any weather and do any task; they just require training and patience until they get the hang of what they’re doing. The daily interactions with a big cross-section of our community is a great part of the job. Another benefit of farming in partnership with others is that I’m mostly free from worrying about much of the farm infrastructure and maintenance of heavy equipment.

A huge plus that I appreciate daily is the support I receive from my coworkers and volunteers at the Food Bank warehouse and processing kitchen. They handle the storage, inventory, washing, repacking and distribution of everything we grow. This frees me and my field manager up to focus solely on production and allows us to grow significantly more than we could otherwise.

How has your program grown since you started?

We’ve increased the diversity of what we grow and the length of the growing season. We try to keep up with demand for certain crops and work with our agencies and programs to hopefully increase demand for produce. We’ve taken on more land every year at Pete’s Produce, and have made improvements to field and greenhouse operations at Springton Manor.

How do you envision this program growing in the future?

We often think about adding more acreage at a new farm site that we could manage completely on our own. We’d like to build several large high tunnel greenhouses to grow throughout the year. We’d also like to add enough acreage to grow more storage vegetables to help fill our coolers for winter distribution.

We could potentially offer farmer education and training and a small farm “incubator” for aspiring farmers, too.

Where do you live? Any hobbies in your free time?

I enjoy mountain biking, hiking, camping, cross-country skiing, craft breweries and live music. I split my time between Downingtown and Mount Airy in Northwest Philadelphia, where my partner farms.

Thanks for all you do, Bill! Your enthusiasm and expertise are a huge component in the success of our farming program.

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

Meet the Team: Claudia Rose-Muir, Food Sourcing Manager

Here at the Chester County Food Bank, we rely on our amazing staff and dedicated volunteers to help us accomplish our ambitious and unwavering goal of ending food insecurity in Chester County.

One of the pillars of our staff is Claudia Rose-Muir, the Food Bank’s food sourcing manager. If we can’t source food consistently and efficiently, then we aren’t able to continue our extensive programming and supporting all of our member agencies. Through Claudia’s hard work, creativity and passion, we have been able to grow and diversify the ways we get access to fresh and shelf-stable foods to help feed our neighbors.

Get to know a little more about Claudia through this Q&A!

Tell us a little bit about yourself! Where are you from, and where do you live now?

Claudia Rose-Muir: I am a New Englander, born and bred, having lived outside Boston, on Cape Cod and in New Hampshire. I moved to Pennsylvania in 1992 and have lived in Coatesville since 1994.

When did you start working with/for CCFB? Was it always in your current role?

I started working at CCFB in May 2013 as a contractor for the raised bed garden program, then moved into the role of kitchen manager that June. I transitioned to food sourcing manager in November 2016.

What does a typical day look like for you as the food sourcing manager?

Well, that’s the fun part of my job: no two days are alike. I could be running a volunteer team packing backpackssenior boxes or sorting donated food. I could be visiting seniors in their homes to learn more about their needs, meeting with CCFB team members to plan upcoming events or brainstorming about new and/or better ways to serve the food insecure of Chester County. On another day, I might be writing menus for senior boxes, talking to vendors about product availability and negotiating pricing, ordering food, doing public speaking events to groups interested in doing food drives, helping people organize their food drives or spending time with Scout troops, teaching them about hunger in Chester County and how they can help.

Wow, that’s a lot of tasks for one job! Do you have extra work to handle with the holidays approaching?

Yes! We are gearing up for the holiday season. That means coordinating lots of food drives—one that can bring in as much as 50,000 pounds—and then two major turkey (and all the sides) distributions in Coatesville for 1,200 people and Parkesburg for 350 people. Produce season is a busy time, but the holidays get crazy, too!

What’s one significant change/evolution at CCFB you’ve seen that you’re proud of?

We have a team goal of making sure that half of the food that we distribute be fresh food, because we know that fresh food is so much better for people’s health. I have been able to watch as we strive to reach to that goal. Currently, we are at just over a third of our distribution [as fresh food]! The great thing is that we are able to send out fresh food in all four seasons now, not just during the growing season, because we have found new ways and vendors to source from. That 50% mark is just around the corner!

What’s the best part of your day?

Driving the forklift! It’s so much fun! But also knowing that the things that I work on every day will help make a difference for people in the county. I know that sounds corny, but it’s true.

Thanks so much, Claudia, for all you that do at the Chester County Food Bank!

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, top to bottom: Ed Williams; Chester County Food Bank (remaining photos)

Meet the Team: Raina Ainslie, Raised Bed Garden Manager

Here at the Chester County Food Bank, we are so fortunate to have a dedicated, passionate and all-around incredible staff and team of volunteers. One of these folks, whose job is integral to our goal of distributing fresh produce (in addition to shelf stable goods) to our neighbors, is Raina Ainslie, the manager of our Raised Bed Garden Program.

This dynamic program, which we’ve been overseeing since 2009, organizes 110 growing sites around Chester County that cultivate and donate fruits and veggies back to us. These sites, which include churches, schools, senior centers and corporations, tend to their own raised-bed gardens. The bounty harvested from these dedicated volunteers counts for 33 percent of the fresh produce we distribute throughout the year.

Raina has been with us since 2014, and is tasked with working with our host sites to set up their gardens and then to empower their volunteers through educational support. This is no small feat, and under her guidance, our garden partners were able to donate a whopping 40,000 pounds of produce to our partner food cupboards and agencies in 2016. Will they be able to top that number this year? Under Raina’s careful, enthusiastic watch, we’re betting they can.

In the midst of one of her busiest times of year at the Chester County Food Bank, Raina kindly took a few minutes out of her day to chat with us about her role and responsibilities as Raised Bed Garden Manager.

What does your day-to-day entail?

I coordinate with our partner gardens to provide material support such as seeds and seedlings. I also grow produce at the demonstration garden at Springton Manor, assist new sites with building their garden beds, and lead educational workshops on gardening.

How does your job change as the seasons change?

Spring, from March through May, is the busiest time of year. We’re starting seedlings in the greenhouse, preparing the garden for planting, coordinating with partner gardens to pick up their supplies, and getting everything in the ground.

In summer, June through September, it’s all about harvesting crops, and re-planting beds.

During the fall season, October through December, we continue to harvest and prepare the beds for winter dormancy.

What’s a challenging part of your job?

Battling critters that want to eat your crops! For example: groundhogs.

What’s a super rewarding part of your job?

I love connecting with gardeners and hearing their stories.

What are you excited about as gardening season approaches?

I look forward to greenhouse work at the beginning of the season, and to harvesting the rest of the year.

Thank you, Raina, for all you do to make our Raised Bed Garden program such a success!

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 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

Meet the Team: Nick Popov, Director of Warehouse and Logistics

As part of our reach into Chester County’s communities, we proudly present the first in a series of monthly stories highlighting one part of the Food Bank that works cohesively to feed, educate and introduce our programs into local residences, schools and businesses. We aim to give you valuable insight into what we do by sharing information about an individual who represents a specific department or partnership with our organization.

We’ve all heard that it takes a village to raise a child, and most people know The Chester County Food Bank helps to feed those in our local “villages.” But one vital and growing part of our operation is often overlooked—our hard-working drivers who manage the complex food distribution logistics that help move over two million pounds of food annually .

Fortunately, we have Nick Popov, who will be with the Food Bank for six years this June. He began as a driver learning the procedures, the partners, the roads and highways and grew into the perfect person to manage our massive distribution of food.

Nick was recently promoted to a senior staff position and has been described by co-workers and volunteers as hardworking, dedicated and humble. He now manages our team of drivers in addition to several other tasks required to handle the volume and traffic of food in and out of the Food Bank and on the roads of Chester County.

We asked Nick a few questions on what he does that makes his job so crucial to the team here at the Chester County Food Bank.

Briefly explain what your responsibilities are for CCFB.

My department handles many different tasks to get food from the Food Bank to our partner agencies. That includes:

  • Planning routes and deliveries
  • Coordinating with agencies to determine wants and needs
  • Overseeing the acceptance of food deliveries into our warehouse as well as the input into our inventory system
  • Mapping and efficiently plotting the warehouse
  • Maintaining our fleet

How many are in your staff and what are their responsibilities?

I work with four great employees:

  • Josh Fisher—Warehouse Receiving Coordinator
  • Bud Hannah—Driver/ Warehouse Associate
  • Philip Biaesch—Driver/ Warehouse Associate
  • Nathan Sletvold—Warehouse Associate

How many trucks are you responsible for and how much food can they hold?

We have 3 trucks and a van:

  • Truck one has six pallet spots capable of hauling 9,000 pounds.
  • Truck two has eight pallet spots capable of hauling 7,500 pounds.
  • Truck three has 12 pallet spots capable of legally hauling 10,000 pounds.

How many pounds of food would you estimate come through the CCFB channel of distribution (incoming and outgoing)?

In calendar year 2016, we processed:

  • Incoming food totaling 2,317,103 pounds.
  • Outgoing food totaling 2,580,226 pounds.

What would you consider your biggest challenges with distribution?

My team works hard to make sure we’re:

  • Meeting the needs of such a large and diverse county.
  • Getting people exactly what they want and when they want it (due to size of vehicles and availability of products).
  • Working my drivers’ schedules to match those of the volunteers at the agencies.

So if you see one of our brightly colored trucks or van out and about, give a friendly wave to our hardworking drivers—we certainly appreciate them!

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 take a steadfast approach to provide food and build support in the neediest communities, while raising awareness and engagement among our community.

Ed Williams