Tag Archives: senior citizens

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

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