Tag Archives: Taste It!

Chester County Food Bank’s Sustained Commitment to Nutrition

When it comes to food and dietary choices, many of us have learned that it’s more about quality than quantity. But for many of our neighbors in Chester County, it’s really about both. Quantity — that is, simply enough food on the table, day after day — is the primary struggle for many families and individuals facing food insecurity. When meals are unpredictable or scarce, quality often isn’t even a luxury that can be factored into the equation.

Here at the Chester County Food Bank, we’re aiming to change that.  We listen to what clients are requesting at the pantries. Seniors like low sodium items for health reasons. Families ask for healthier snacks for their kids.  No matter where people are getting their food from, we believe they shouldn’t have to sacrifice nutrition and quality when it comes to the food they’re putting into their bodies.

For many years, we haven’t distributed soda and other sweetened beverages or candy donations in large quantities, and have also worked nonstop to find innovative ways to provide fresh food to our clients via our Fresh2You Mobile Market, the Fresh2You Fruit & Vegetable Prescription (FVRx) program, Taste It! and Eat Fresh educational platforms, Raised Bed Garden Program and more.

“Our goal at the Food Bank is to not add to that problem, and to expand access to what people on a limited income can afford,” said Roberta Cosentino, Director of Community Food Access & Education Programs.

Our community food security assessment gathered feedback from over 1,000 of our food pantry members through surveys and focus groups. We received an overwhelming response that pantry members are concerned about their health and the most important foods when coming to the pantry are fresh produce, quality protein, and healthy dairy items. Over the course of the next few years, our goal is to provide more of these items, which can often be higher in price, and so out of reach for many people. Then, with those items taken care of, our clients can readjust their food budgets and have more to spend on items of their choosing to fill in around what we provide.

For instance, we want to distribute less of the highly processed canned items which are typically loaded with high fructose corn syrup, added sugar, and sodium, and replace them with items with simple ingredients and recipes that are for eating every day.

CCFB continues to monitor the foods that we purchase with donated dollars and government funds more closely to be sure they’re as nutritionally impactful as possible while also meeting our clients’ expressed needs. Of course, we still want to provide cereals (low in added sugar), fruit in juice, and canned proteins like tuna, chicken and beans, but are going to pass by options that include high fructose corn syrup, partially hydrogenated oil (trans fat) and excessive added sugars. (As far as food drives and donations are concerned, we are still happy to receive items from our most wanted food items list)

We’re excited to embark on this next step of our journey to help fight insecurity and go beyond hunger in Chester County. If you have any questions about our commitment to nutrition, please don’t hesitate to reach out and ask!

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 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

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in March 2019 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.


Beyond Hunger: Gearing up for Our Best Season Yet with Fresh2You

As we recently announced, Chester County Food Bank’s new tagline, Beyond Hunger, sets the stage for our continued work of strengthening and nourishing our community. One of our signature programs that captures the essence of how we do this is our Fresh2You Mobile Market, a four-wheeled produce stand that brings fresh food to underserved areas.

Fresh2You is special to us because it really ties together everything that CCFB strives for in an elegant, powerful circle: organic produce that is grown by our farmer and through our raised bed gardens or through sourcing from local farmers is made available for accessible prices to the residents of Chester County; and volunteers, who staff the truck and run our TasteIt! demonstrations, introducing seasonal ingredients and cooking techniques to Fresh2You shoppers and then offering recipe bundles to recreate the dishes at home for just $5. It’s education and action all in one amazing package, and it exemplifies the ways in which we address the root causes of poverty and help people who need assistance beyond just going to a food pantry.

“Fresh2You aims to serve the entire community — we accept SNAP, have our Fruit & Vegetable RX (FVRx) program and are really trying to meet people where they are, both physically and financially,” said Roberta Cosentino, the Fresh2You Mobile Market Manager. “We’re trying to do what we can to get food in people’s hands in a dignified and equitable exchange.”

Our 2018 Fresh2You season was very successful, and 2019 is gearing up to be our best year yet! A second truck will hit the streets (its name is Blanche, and the original truck is Dorothy — “Golden Girls” fans, do you approve?), with an updated look, complete with the updated tagline “Shop, taste, cook with Chester County’s freshest.”

“We’re emphasizing that people can come to the market not only to get all the produce, but also experience by tasting it and by seeing people cooking TasteIt! recipe demos,” said Roberta. “TasteIt! is the most important thing that we do. We have customers who tell us, ‘This is the one day that I don’t have to think about what to make for dinner,’ and that’s people from all backgrounds.”

The second truck will allow for more mobile market opportunities. Because Blanche is smaller and setup is easier, Roberta believes her team will be able to visit some smaller locations. As it stands, the 2019 Fresh2You schedule is looking great: Tuesday, we’ll be at the Phoenixville Senior Center from 10 a.m. to noon and at the Coventry Mall from 3 to 5 p.m.; Wednesday, at the Coatesville Veterans Affairs Medical Center from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and at the Parkesburg Service Center from 3 to 5 p.m.; Thursday at the Kennett Area YMCA from 10 a.m. to noon; Friday at the Oxford Public Library from 10 to noon; Saturday at the Coatesville Public Library from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.; and every last Friday of the month at Indian Run in Honey Brook.  

The season is longer this year, too: It kicked off on June 4 and runs all the way through November 23. One of the ways we’re able to do this is that we’re working closely with our farmers to grow all kinds of crops that help extend the seasons, and that respond to things Fresh2You shoppers have been excited about.

“Our farmers are tailoring what they’re growing to our market!” Roberta said. “For instance, we had a lot of success with kohlrabi. We went from not growing it at all to this year our farmer growing two or three different kinds. We learned that it’s something that people of all different backgrounds eat; we weren’t really aware of that.”

Our farmer is also growing more and a greater variety of fresh herbs, which are frequent additions to our TasteIt! recipe bundles. The recipes that we design are meant to be accessible and versatile, even for beginners — think coleslaw, ratatouille and pasta salad. We want people to know that you can make simple food delicious, even just using a hot plate (as we do during the demonstrations)! The only ingredients we assume people have at home are oil, salt and pepper. We offer our own dried herb blends and vinegar at the market, and hopefully this year will be selling olive oil, as well.

Part of our Beyond Hunger philosophy is that our Fresh2You Mobile Market is open to everyone. We are so excited to see you this season at whatever location is most convenient to your home or work! And, if you love to cook, consider volunteering with Fresh2You and TasteIt! We’re always looking for more helpers, and a comprehensive Fresh2You training is coming up in August.

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

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

Trying New Foods with Taste It! & Eat Fresh

Trying new foods can be intimidating for adults and children alike. After all, wariness about unfamiliar foods is one way our brain balances our innate sense of curiosity as humans. Without that little voice that says Wait, are you really sure you want to eat that green thing? we’d run a much higher risk of ingesting harmful or toxic substances.

However, this same instinct can create a big roadblock when it comes to people, especially kids, branching out from their comfort zone and trying vegetables, grains and other nutritious foods that they’ve never had before. Repeat exposure helps new things seem less peculiar and increases the chances that someone might try something they once turned down. And if those new foods are paired with more recognizable ingredients, all the better. Beets, for example, might seem less “weird” if when they’re roasted, sauced with a tasty dressing and tossed with tangy, salty feta cheese. This is the impetus behind CCFB’s, Taste It! & Eat Fresh.

Taste It! has been part of Chester County Food Bank’s outreach programming since 2014. The food demonstrations, offered as a facet of the Food Bank’s educational programming, allows people an opportunity to try foods they might not otherwise consider. Taste It! Volunteers will prepare a delicious dish from our recipe database and offer small samples to pantry clients and customers at our Fresh2You Mobile Market. The proof of a successful Taste It! demo is when we see people adding fruits and vegetables that they’ve just sampled to their baskets.

Volunteers are at the core of Taste It! The CCFB staff trains volunteers on not only basic food safety and presentation skills but also gives tips on client engagement. Volunteers are then able to prepare nutritious recipe samples and share basic information about how to cook healthy food on a limited budget.  If you’re interested, please find more information and volunteer application here.

Eat Fresh is a series of cooking and nutrition classes that CCFB, in partnership with local community organizations, offers to provide youth and adults at risk for food insecurity with the tools and confidence to choose and cook healthy food for themselves and their families. Over the course of six weeks, each Eat Fresh participant practices hands-on cooking skills, learns how to select, decode and understand healthy recipes, and becomes acquainted with a range of fresh produce, whole grains and other healthy staples. To keep the momentum up at home, participants are welcome to take home the fresh fruits and veggies featured in class after each session.

We can see concrete evidence through Eat Fresh that when people are exposed to new foods and given the tools to cook simple, nutritious foods, they feel empowered to take a chance and discover all kinds of new foods.

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