Tag Archives: senior food box program

Don’t Go Hungry: How to Get Help in Chester County

Finding yourself in a position of food insecurity can happen anytime. It’s not pleasant to think about, but an injury, layoff from work, family illness or another unforeseen change can drastically affect your circumstances.

This scenario understandably makes many people feel vulnerable and overwhelmed, and figuring out how and where to ask for help can be a challenge. If you don’t know where to turn, we’re here to help. Chester County Food Bank has made it our mission to help our neighbors in need combat food insecurity by connecting them with programs and resources across the county that can be of assistance. From our Weekend Backpack Program for school-aged children to our Senior Food Boxes, our staff and team of dedicated volunteers work tirelessly to make sure that no one in our community is overlooked.

First, see if you fall within the footprint of our region by visiting the Need Food (blue) button in the upper right of our website. There is an interactive map that illustrates our impact across Chester County. You can look for your community and find a food pantry and hot meal sites. There’s a difference between a food bank, like we are, and the food pantries that actually send clients home with food. So while we aren’t a pick-up site for food, we can connect you with 1 of the 120 local agencies we work with where that service is available. If you’d prefer to speak with someone on the phone, call us at (610) 873-6000 and we’ll help you identify a hunger relief agency that serves your part of town. We also have staff members that speak Spanish.

Once you find a food pantry or cupboard close to your home (usually based on school district lines), you’ll need to gather a few materials to sign up.

To qualify at a food cupboard, a client must:

  • Provide name, date of birth and proof of address.
  • Report total household income (this is a self declaration based on 150 percent of poverty line).

Learn more about this process here.

Outside of food cupboards, there are a number of social service organizations throughout Chester County. Get more info at our Community Partners page about the ways the agencies we work with can help to provide food, shelter, childcare, counseling and other services.

If you do need help beyond food, it’s easy to find human and social service resources in your neighborhood by calling or visiting 2-1-1, a regional social services hotline. To call, simply dial 2-1-1 or (866) 964-7922; the line is open 7 days a week from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., and interpreter services are available in more than 140 languages. During this free, confidential call, you’ll be connected with a 2-1-1 Southeastern Pennsylvania information and referral specialist. For assistance in finding social services such as health, basic needs, mental health and drug and alcohol treatment, review the Department of Human Services Community Resource Guide.

We hope this has been a helpful resource for anyone looking for ways to get help. Feel free to call Chester County Food Bank anytime during our operating hours (Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.) with questions or for further assistance.

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: Bigstock; all other photos: Chester County Food Bank

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 a Volunteer: Sarah Walls

Here at the Chester County Food Bank, we are so blessed to have a dedicated, passionate group of volunteers who help us continue our mission of addressing food insecurity in our communities. We enjoy introducing you to some of the folks that give generously of their time and energy to the Food Bank — we honestly couldn’t do what we do without them.

One of our long-term volunteers is Sarah Walls, a Downingtown resident who spends two to three days a week (plus one Friday each month) volunteering at CCFB. Five years ago, Sarah retired from her job as a technical administrator for the engineering department of MEI in West Goshen. After taking her first few months of retirement to clean her house from top to bottom, repaint her kitchen and tackle “all the things you can’t find time to do when you work,” Sarah began looking for other ways to spend her time.

“I’ve always had the desire since I was in my early 30s to help people who find themselves short of food,” she said. “I’ve always wanted to be able to retire and work in that area, which is what I did.”

She spent some time during her first year of retirement volunteering at Lord’s Pantry of Downingtown and has been coming to us for the past four years. Sarah’s administrative skills are put to great use: She works at the front desk, fills out spreadsheets and answers the phones.

She finds the work — and the work environment — fulfilling.

“I love being here; I love being able to be a part of helping someone who’s in need,” she said. “What I especially like is that people here are like a family. Everyone cares for each other and supports each other. They treat the volunteers like family; they know you by name, they know about things going on in your life, they’re there to support you. To them, it’s more than a job, so to the volunteers, it’s more than just volunteering.”

Sarah has taken her passion for helping people even further, and two and a half years ago, helped to start a small food cupboard at her church, Cornerstone Christian Fellowship in West Chester. All of its food comes from CCFB and is used mostly for people in emergency situations. “But,” Sarah said, “we try to connect them with one of the local food cupboards if they’re having ongoing problems.” For 2018, Sarah says she’s looking for even more ways to get involved in fighting food insecurity and hunger in her community!

When asked where her passion around these issues comes from, she looked to her family. She grew up in West Bradford as 1 of 13 on a working farm. Even though the family was so large, she says her mother would always help people in need. “I think it’s hereditary … all my brothers and sisters work in areas where they’re helping people, and it’s even going down to the next generation! A lot of my nieces and nephews are in social work and fields like that,” she noted.

Sarah says that volunteering at CCFB has taught her a lot about how our entire system works, from how the food comes in to how it’s distributed and all the paperwork in between. She’s also seen up close how our community partners like Wegmans give resources that make a difference, especially in emergencies. “On the outside, you don’t see how it works, but it’s a whole process that we go through to make sure that nobody goes hungry. There are so many little things that go on that the Food Bank does that people don’t know about,” she said.

But her favorite part has been learning about how to get people connected to where they need to be. On the second Friday of each month, she does outreach work, signing people up for CCFB’s Senior Food Box program.

“It’s more than giving out food, it’s encouraging people and learning more about them so you can help make their situation the best it can be. This all comes from the training I get from the Food Bank; it teaches you how to look, watch and listen,” she said. “That kind of stuff gets me more out in the community, which is where I want to be.”

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: 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

 

September is Hunger Action Month: 14 Ways to Get Involved

September is a month of change and renewal: School is back in session and vacation is over. As the oppressive heat of summer dissipates, we’re reenergized and reactivated. It’s the perfect time to take stock and press forward with projects and passions. So, while the Chester County Food Bank works 12 months a year to address and combat food insecurity in our community, we focus even more intently in September, which is Hunger Action Month.

Hunger Action Month is a wide-reaching initiative from Feeding America, the nation’s largest domestic hunger-relief organization, which started in 1979 and connects sources of surplus food to hundreds of food banks. In 2016, Chester County Food Bank and Philabundance developed a partnership to expand food distribution in Chester County, an area which both food banks serve. To date, this partnership has put more and varied food into the hands of those who need it by allowing the two food banks to share their resources and become more efficient.

In September people all over America will stand together with Feeding America and the nationwide network of food banks to fight hunger. Do you feel inspired to get involved with Hunger Action Month? Here are 14 ways to help fight food insecurity and hunger in your community:

  1. Shop the Fresh2You Mobile Market: Chester County Food Bank’s market-on-wheels brings fresh, nutritious food to neighborhoods throughout our region. While the mission of the Fresh2You Mobile Market is to connect low-income families with the bounty of Chester County, the market is open to all! Check out the Fresh2You schedule and come do some of your weekly shopping with us! Your dollars help to support our mission.
  2. Sign up to volunteer with CCFB: We rely on volunteers for so much, and are deeply appreciative of all the energy and enthusiasm our volunteers bring to the table. In September, after students return to school, we always face a particular need for volunteers at our farm sites. If you’re able to donate a few hours to working at Pete’s Produce Farm or Springton Manor Farm, please view our online calendar and sign up. Harvest season is an extra fun time to work on the farm! To stay committed, be an early bird! Start your week off right by signing up for one of our Monday or Tuesday 7–8:30 a.m. volunteer opportunities at a farm.
  3. Know the local pantries: A great—and easy—way to participate in Hunger Action Month is simply to check out where the food pantries in your area are located. Whether for your own benefit, or perhaps to act as a resource to a friend, colleague or neighbor, simply knowing where local help for the hungry is counts as taking action.
  4. Contact the Food Bank to request a speaker for your company, church or community organization: Help us to amplify our mission by inviting someone from our organization to speak to yours. A knowledgeable staff member will discuss the realities of hunger in Chester County, our work to provide food access to those struggling with food insecurity and how you can get involved to help those in need in our community.
  5. Sign up for the Food Bank’s newsletter: Here’s another great way to get involved that only takes a moment! Subscribe to our newsletter to get the latest from CCFB in your email inbox.
  6. Take the SNAP Challenge: Can you eat on $4 a day? That is what is expected of many people receiving SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) through the state. See how far you can stretch $4 to feed your family for a whole day at your local market or discount grocery store. Understanding that significant challenge can help to boost empathy and give insight to the very real daily struggles of some of our neighbors.
  7. Organize a Tuna Tuesday food drive at your office/school/church: Harness the energy of the people around you by spearheading a food drive wherever you find community. We’ve found that themed drives are often successful, and “Tuna Tuesday” is an especially good once, since canned tuna is so nutrient-dense—a perfectly shelf-stable protein source that kids and adults love. Another great theme is a “spaghetti dinner” food drive. Collect pasta, canned sauce, canned tomatoes and spices like garlic powder and oregano in plastic jars.
  8. Brown-bag your lunch and donate what you would spend on lunch to the Food Bank: Even the thriftiest lunch out adds up. So whether you’d normally spend $3 or $13 buying lunch at a convenience store or cafe, kick it old school with a brown-bag lunch as many days each week as possible. Add up what you saved and donate to the CCFB! Our purchasing power allows us to stretch your dollar in amazing ways.
  9. Dig up change to make a change: Collect loose change at home or around office and donate at end of the month to the Food Bank. This is a great exercise in seeing how small contributions can really add up. A quarter here, a few dimes there, and before you know it, you’ll have a sizable donation to help us further our mission.
  10. Check if your employer offers a charitable match: Double the impact of your gift by having your employer match your donation to CCFB. Many more companies offer this benefit than you may think, so be sure to inquire with your supervisor or human resources department to see if matching gifts are available to you.
  11. Attend the Brandywine Valley Evening Water Garden on September 30. This is the final garden tour for the season that all benefit the Chester County Food Bank. The tour features an eclectic array of water features that encourage visitors to wander around waterfalls, fountains and lush landscaping all with the added beauty of outdoor and underwater lights. Guests of the Evening Water Garden Tour will be transported via bus from property to spectacular property and enjoy an alfresco progressive dinner and dessert.
  12. Shop Amazon Smile: We know how indispensable shopping on Amazon.com is for many families. When you shop, go through the Smile.Amazon.com portal and select Chester County Food Bank as your preferred charity. Amazon will donate 0.5% of the price of your eligible AmazonSmile purchases to us! AmazonSmile offers the same pricing, shipping and services as the regular Amazon.com.
  13. Work out and give back at acac with their 30 days for $30 campaign. Just $1 a day supports the Food Bank with 100% of donations benefiting the Food Bank. Memberships must be purchased and activated by September 30, 2017.
  14. Color some kindness: Sometimes, it’s the little things. Sign up to decorate boxes for our senior food box program. It’s a fun activity that gets the whole family involved, especially kids who aren’t old enough to volunteer yet! Boxes can be picked up by request from our facility (depending on availability. maximum 50 boxes). Please contact food@chestercountyfoodbank.org if you are interested in this activity.

We hope at least one of these suggestions gives you a useful, doable way to be part of Hunger Action Month this September!

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; Ed Williams; Nathan Greenwood; Chester County Food Bank