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4 Ways to Make the Most of Hunger Action Month

At the Chester County Food Bank, we’re working year-round to end hunger and food insecurity in our communities. No matter the season, we’re mobilizing our staff and volunteers to make a difference in the lives of our neighbors in need, from Simple Suppers to nutrition education.

That said, September is a preview to the giving season, as it’s Hunger Action Month, a wide-reaching initiative from Feeding America, the nation’s largest domestic hunger-relief organization. For us, food insecurity is a priority day in and day out; still, September gives us a chance to address issues of hunger in a more high-profile way.

There are plenty of ways to get involved in Hunger Action Month this year, but here are four that can help you to make the most of it:

1. Practice Acts of Advocacy

Advocacy is central to what we do at the Food Bank. We count on public support to help further our mission and accomplish our goals, and without a network of allies to help us spread the word about our work, we’d be in trouble. We can organize and take action, but to make the biggest impact, we need our supporters to help share the important message about how hunger affects those living in our cities and towns.

Ricky Eller, our Advocacy Coordinator, says that during Hunger Action Month, you can also practice advocacy in the following ways:

2. Donate Food

Many people feel energized in September, making it the perfect time to hold a food drive. Gather a group of friends, neighbors, colleagues or church friends, and see how fun it can be to make a difference! When you host a food drive, you’re helping to provide our member agencies with nutritious, high-quality food so they can serve our neighbors struggling with food insecurity.

While all pantry staples are welcome, back-to-school time means there is an extra-high demand for breakfast foods. If possible, we’d appreciate food drives focused on nutritious breakfast favorites, like cereal, oatmeal and canned fruit in juice (no high-fructose corn syrup, please!). See here to learn more.

 

3. Get to Know CCFB a Little Better

Brush up on CCFB’s mission and programs by watching a few of our videos! A great place to start is with our mini-documentary, A Fresh Approach, which is all about our history and our work in the community.

4. Sign Up to Volunteer

Whether you’re new to CCFB or you’ve been a supporter for years, we’d love to have you pitch in as a volunteer. If you like to cook, garden, work with children or just spend some social time with others helping out a good cause, there is an opportunity waiting for you at the Food Bank! Commitments range from one afternoon-long session to ongoing shifts — it’s completely up to you and your availability! Come alone or as part of a team. See here for sign up info.

No matter how you choose to get involved, make Hunger Action Month a time that you look forward to each September to help Chester County Food Bank further our work in the community!

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

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in September 2018 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

3 Ways to Practice Advocacy at Home

Here at Chester County Food Bank, advocacy is central to our mission. Of course, action is also key to accomplishing our work to combat food insecurity in our communities, as well as carry out all of the many programseducational outreach opportunities and direct distribution initiatives that we provide to our neighbors in need. But without advocacy (defined as “public support for or recommendation of a particular cause or policy”), we wouldn’t have a network of allies to help us spread the word about our work and share the important message about how hunger affects those living in our cities and towns.

Not only do we rely on our supporters to act as advocates, but we also practice advocacy. Ricky Eller, our administrative and program assistant, says that CCFB practices advocacy by committing to protect federal and state nutrition programs, which help to keep food on the tables of our neighbors currently experiencing or are at risk of food insecurity.

“Whether we are meeting with representatives in Harrisburg to champion funding for SFPP (State Food Purchase Program) or engaging with our partner agencies to ask their members of Congress to protect SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), our efforts are aimed at educating the community on these vitally important programs and the role they serve in Chester County,” he says. “Simply put, we can’t do it alone, and advocacy is just one way that we work to meet our mission of mobilizing our community to ensure access to real, healthy food.”

While you might not have the time or resources to meet with state reps or undertake a big campaign, we urge you to not assume that advocacy isn’t for you. There are so many small, everyday ways that you can practice advocacy right at home. It’s too easy to believe that if we’re not doing something “big” that we aren’t able to make an impact, but here at CCFB, we’ve seen that assumption debunked over and over again.

Here are three ways you can practice advocacy at home:

1. Share an article on social media: Facebook can be used for some much more than posting family photos or cute animal memes. Social media can be an incredible tool for sharing information and educating friends and family about important social issues.

Ricky notes that “many folks don’t realize the prevalence of hunger in our community, and right now is a particularly important time to bring awareness to anti-hunger policy with the reauthorization of the Farm Bill in Congress. Just starting the conversation is a great place to begin.”

Sharing news articles — from trusted, reputable sources, of course — is an easy and almost instant way of practicing advocacy. Our new mission mini-documentary is a great way to learn more about us and to share with your online network.

2. Educate yourself: Sharing articles via social media becomes a lot more powerful when you also educate yourself about the issues you care about. For instance, when it comes to hunger and food insecurity, many policies benefit communities in more ways than providing food.

“A program like SNAP is an important revenue stream for communities,” Ricky explains. “Every dollar of SNAP is estimated to generate $1.70 of economic activity that would be sorely missed by businesses in Chester County. Once folks have an understanding, writing or calling elected officials is an effective way to have your voice heard. The more personalized the message, the better!”

Firsthand experience can also be the most compelling form of education. Volunteering at a food pantry or meal site in your neighborhood can provide a meaningful way to connect with people who have real-life experiences with hunger. “Having a story to share with legislators will embolden advocates to take a stand to protect the programs we fight for every day,” Ricky says.

3. Shop at your local farmers market: Keep your dollars working locally by supporting your local food system. Most communities hold a weekly farmers market for at least part of the year, and choosing to buy some of your groceries at these markets is a huge help to farmers in our region. You’ll get the benefit of fresh, seasonal produce — often organic or grown with Integrated Pest Management practices — all while supporting the agricultural community instead of multinational corporations.

We hope these three suggestions have helped show how anyone can practice simple acts of advocacy in their day-to-day life. Try one of them and see how easy it can be to speak out and support our mission to end hunger insecurity in Chester County!

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, top to bottom: Pexels; Chester County Food Bank; Bigstock

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

Kale Yeah! October 4 is National Kale Day

Kale, the unexpected rock star of green vegetables, is getting its own special day: October 4 is National Kale Day! These days, it seems like there’s a “holiday” for practically everything, but this is one that we’re happy to celebrate. Nutrition is a core value at Chester County Food Bank, and kale (plus collards, and other greens in the brassica family) are jam-packed with an amazing quantity of vitamins and minerals, like iron.

Kale, a hearty veggie, grows well in a variety of climates and soils. We should know—2017 is looking like one of our most successful growing years for kale. This fall, we’re set to harvest literally tons (between 15,000 and 20,000 pounds) of kale and other leafy greens grown in our raised-bed gardens and through our farm partners. We’re so proud of this amazing number, and are excited to share the bounty with our community through our many programs and our partner local food pantries and agencies.

To make this harvest happen, we will continue to rely on volunteer power. Volunteering on the farm is fun, and the autumn harvest is the perfect time to get involved! Check out our volunteer page for more info or to sign up for shifts.

There’s good reason so many people have fallen for kale salads and smoothies, and not just because they make pretty Instagram pictures! Kale is low in calories (just 36 per cup), high in fiber and Vitamins A, C and K, has more iron per calorie than beef and is packed with antioxidants. Also, 1 cup of kale boasts 10 percent of the RDA of omega-3 fatty acid and 9 percent of the recommended calcium and magnesium. Oh, and it has protein, too—2.9 grams per 1 cup serving. Pretty incredible, right?

Perhaps, you, like us, have found yourself with an abundance of kale after a productive summer. Or maybe the emerald green bunches are on sale at your local market, and you’re curious to see what this trendy vegetable is all about. Not sure what to do with kale, or its cousins, Swiss chard and collard greens? The options are almost endless!

Try it in a comforting soup with turkey and noodles (great for Thanksgiving leftovers), or shredded in a protein-packed Tuscan white bean salad. Supercharge a regular potato salad, or go classic with a health food cafe-worthy kale salad. If the texture of raw kale is a bit much for you, try massaging it. Yes, really! Rubbing the uncooked leaves down with a bit of olive oil and salt and allowing it to sit for a few minutes can help make the leaves softer and more pleasant to chew.

This October 4, join us in celebrating the wondrous plant that is kale during National Kale Day!

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: Pexels; Chester County Food Bank (next three photos)