Tag Archives: summer food boxes

Feeding Families: Local Partnership Strengthens Summer Food Box Program

As we’ve shared before, when school is out, so are free school lunch programs, a resource that many children and families in our community rely on during the academic year.

Although the summer, for many of us, is a time of abundance when it comes to food — think CSAs in full swing, barbecues and parties booking up most weekends, and new restaurants opening with growing frequency — it is a time of scarcity for so many of our neighbors in need.

Chester County Food Bank has worked to address this issue with our Summer Food Box program, which helps school-age children and their families receive nutritious, easy-to-prepare, nonperishable food during the summer vacation months through their participating member agency or youth center. Packed by volunteers, these boxes make a huge difference in the lives of some of the most vulnerable in the county. The way it works is that one box is available for each school-age child in each family and the pick-up times during the summer occur once in July and once in August. The boxes contain all sorts of nonperishable foods such as canned tuna and chicken, milk, cereal, oatmeal packets, fruit, granola bars, pasta, rice, beans, canned fruit and spaghetti sauce.

This summer, we’ve gone even further to provide aid to food-insecure families in our area. By partnering with The Coatesville Youth Initiative (CYI), our Summer Food Box program is stronger than ever. Thanks to generous support from Enterprise, we’re working with CYI, an independent nonprofit working to enact youth-led community change, to provide a cohesive approach to addressing food insecurity, workforce development, youth engagement and community outreach. And after identifying high needs among Chester County’s Hispanic population, we’ve linked with a Migrant Education Program in Jennersville to receive distributions throughout the summer. This will enable us to serve 500 additional students throughout the summer months.

The CYI does so much to help break the cycle of economic inequality: It trains youth leaders, enhances family relationships, encourages prevention education and builds community collaboration. One of its main programs is ServiceCorps, an eight-week summer service/leadership development program for Coatesville-area youth. Now in its ninth year, the program empowers participants to serve and connect with their communities and build life/leadership skills, all while earning summer income.

This summer, four ServiceCorps participants between the ages of 16 and 18 were hired to serve as site coordinators and administer our Summer Food Box program. We saw this as a great opportunity, not just for the participants who receive training and oversight from our staff, but also for us — we utilized the teens’ input on how to best reach and promote the feeding program among other youth with whom we wouldn’t usually have contact. After all, no one can influence a teenager quite like one of their peers, and this strategy will help us reduce and eliminate the stigma of receiving food in these contexts. The ServiceCorps participants have been collecting data, helping to coordinate deliveries and spreading the word to create awareness around our programming. The outcome of this synergy is already apparent, as we have begun to effectively increase reach in this vulnerable community, including newly established “Produce Hubs” that reach youth where they are, like churches and summer camps.

This situation is a resounding “win-win-win” for the ServiceCorps team, Chester County Food Bank outreach and the residents of Coatesville!

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

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

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