Tag Archives: volunteering

“Heat or Eat”: Some Neighbors Have to Make This Difficult Choice

 

 

The blustery days of winter have arrived in force. We are seeing record setting lows in temperatures. Unfortunately, as the chill of winter blasts through the hills and towns of Chester County, our communities are still in desperate need. Hunger knows no season.

Those less fortunate still require heat and hot water and other social services, in addition to food. The effects of the government shutdown may be impacting individuals and families who may have never experienced food insecurity.  People in our community, unfortunately, may have to decide whether to pay a utility bill or cut drastically into their food supply. Heat or Eat… what would you choose? Government assistance isn’t always an option. An individual can make $18,210 or less to qualify for government food programs. This is where we help. There is no need to choose between paying for heat or choosing to eat. Our neighbors depend on our donations to make ends meet all year long.

As we sit by the fire, sipping hot chocolate while watching the snow gently fall, why not take advantage of winters “down time” and consider donating in one (or more) ways. Your donations are always welcome and valuable to the Chester County Food Bank and we appreciate everything you do all year long.

Types of donations:

  • Food. Take advantage of winter sales at local supermarkets. Picking up a few extra non-perishables while shopping for yourself or your family is an easy way to be involved with little effort.
  • Food drives. Conducting a neighborhood or corporate food drive takes very little time. Look at these examples of local inspiring folks who did just that.
  • Volunteer. Come out of winter hibernation and join other members of our community to sort, pack and help with food distribution indoors. A few hours is all we need. Sign up here.
  • Monetary donations. Too frigid out? Bad roads? A simple click here will send your donation directly to us, where 85 percent of all monetary donations go directly to program costs. Make it easy with a monthly donation or choose a tribute gift for someone special.  Any amount makes an impact.


Join other donors and help us continue our mission to mobilize the community to ensure access to real, healthy food.

 

 

 

Want to learn more? Sign up for our newsletter and stay connected. Are you or someone you know interested in prepared ready to eat meals? Learn more about our Simple Suppers and partnership with Meals on Wheels of Chester County.

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.

Ed Williams

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in February 2017 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

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

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

Get the Latest Chester County Food Bank News This Friday on WCHE

Exciting news: Our marketing and communications manager, Anne Shuniak, is going to make a guest appearance on the radio this Friday! Anne will be featured on the weekly show “Eat, Drink and Dish” on WCHE 1520 AM. This community-minded program, hosted by Mary Bigham of The Town Dish, covers topics related to the regional culinary scene, ranging from interviews with local chefs and brewers to in-depth conversations with food-related nonprofits like the Chester County Food Bank. The show airs every Friday from 12:15–1 p.m, and this Friday, November 10, Anne will be on at the top of the show.

Anne is uniquely positioned at CCFB to update you on what’s going on around the food bank. Tune in to get an insider’s perspective on the ins and outs of the holiday season, which are a busy and important time of year for us and those we serve. Here’s a sneak preview of some of the topics she’ll be discussing:

  • Common needs for the population the we serve: As you can imagine, the winter holidays can present extremely stressful and emotionally fraught situations for families who are facing food insecurity. We serve many types of people, ranging from parents with small children to senior citizens. Different types of households have different needs, but one thing is for sure: Hunger never takes a break, and we double down on efforts to make sure that our neighbors in need have enough in their cupboards for everyday meals, as well as bigger holiday gatherings.
  • November 11 and 18 Thanksgiving Food DrivesCCFB will be open from 9:30–11 a.m. on the next two Saturdays of the month. Our goal is encourage the community to bring in some of the food items that are most needed this time of year: canned fruit (in juice), canned chicken and/or tuna, canned tomatoes and tomato sauce, pasta and rice, instant potatoes and healthy cereals. Anne will go over all the details for how, when and where you can deliver your donations.
  • Other ways to get involved this holiday season: Giving monetary donationsvolunteering and hosting a food drive are just some of the ways for CCFB’s supporters to lend a hand not just during the holidays, but all year long! Anne will share suggestions for ways you can help those struggling with food insecurity in Chester County to enjoy the holidays.

So this Friday, November 10, at 12:15 p.m., turn your radio dial to WCHE 1520 AM to catch Anne Shuniak on “Eat, Drink and Dish!” You can go old school and listen on your actual radio, or live stream the show here. Each week’s episode is also saved for seven days on the podcast section of the WCHE website, which is convenient if you aren’t able to listen live, or want to share the show with a friend.

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, top to bottom: Pexels; Ed Williams (next two photos); Pexels

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

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

Feed Our Neighbors: Volunteer on a Farm

Chester County is home to a bounty of fertile farmland—nearly 165,000 acres, according to the 2012 U.S. Census of Agriculture—and here at the Chester County Food Bank, we don’t take that incredible resource for granted. We’re proud to have two local farm partners: Pete’s Produce Farm in West Chester and Springton Manor Farm in Glenmoore. Both of these farms are generous enough to donate acreage to the CCFB and allow us to grow our own produce there.

On seven acres at Pete’s and one acre at Springton, we’re able to grow a large quantity of a limited variety of crops. Throughout the growing season—which runs from May until November each year—we’ll see kale, collard greens, cabbage, broccoli, lettuce, onions, garlic, tomatillos, sweet and hot peppers, tomatoes and herbs all coming from our fields! All of this nourishing, locally grown food adds up over the months—we harvest over 200,000 pounds of produce each year, all of which goes to local families and neighbors in need through our partner hunger relief agencies.

How do we implement such a significant program? Through the help of our amazing volunteers! Each season, we rely on over 1,000 volunteers to get outside to plant, maintain and harvest our nutrient-dense crops. Volunteering with our farm partners is a wonderful way to get to the roots of food insecurity, and there’s nothing quite so rewarding as spending a few hours out on the farm and seeing the impact of your hard work. If you’ve got an afternoon or a few weekends to spare this spring or summer, we encourage you to come out to the fields with us and get your hands dirty in the best way!

A few more facts about our on-site farm volunteer opportunities:

  • We average 15 volunteers each day during the height of the season, splitting time between a.m. and p.m. shifts.
  • Our need is greatest in late August and early September, when students return to school.
  • Volunteering with us is simple: if you’re interested, check out our online calendar, create a profile and sign up for any workdays that fit your schedule!
  • There’s no obligation or ongoing commitment to volunteer. Of course, we love when volunteers come out on a regular basis, but it’s fine if you can only sign up for one day.
  • If, for some reason, you’re unable to attend a workday that you signed up for, we only ask that you cancel with plenty of advance notice (at least 48 hours).
  • To schedule a group workday (five or more individuals), email volunteer@chestercountyfoodbank.org with three potential dates.

To get started with creating an account, looking at our volunteer schedule or signing up to work at one of the beautiful farms, head over to our volunteer site.

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

Elmer Duckinfield: A Volunteer Ahead of His Time

“I grew up in the city. I couldn’t grow a tomato if I tried,” laughs Elmer Duckinfield, when asked what inspired him to become Chester County’s first official farm gleaning volunteer back in 1996. Elmer’s humility, dedication and quick humor become evident as we explored the origin of one of our most successful campaigns to get fresh produce into the hands of those experiencing food insecurity in our area.

Though Elmer, an octogenarian, has considered himself officially retired from the volunteer circuit for the past four years, back in 1996 an idea was brewing and Elmer was quick to embrace it and become a welcome fixture in our community.

In the 90’s, food cupboards were lightly scattered within some of the larger towns of the county, but most of the hard work involved in food donations was done by church volunteer groups, scout food drives and the annual holiday collection.

At the time, Andrew Dinniman, a county commissioner and now a state senator, saw a need to do more. He knew exactly whom he could request to get the job done. “Who says no to Andy?” says Elmer, who had recently retired from Burroughs Corp. when he was tapped to lead the new effort.

Elmer and Senator Dinniman have known each other for many years. Elmer continues, “He has a way of supporting people, and putting a level of confidence in you that makes you want to succeed. We believed that if we approached some of our county’s local farmers, we could find a way to gather the excess large volume crop yield that sometimes went uncollected. Produce like potatoes, peppers, onions and corn were prime targets.”

Thus, the Chester County “gleaning program” idea was born and eventually blossomed into one of the largest fresh produce generators for the county. Today, we see the Food Bank distributing about 200,000 pounds annually to community partners who in turn reach over 40,000 men, women and children in Chester County.

Pete’s Produce in Westtown was one of the first farms that Elmer “staffed” with volunteers. Owner Pete Flynn agreed to set aside several acres for the Gleaning Program that still exists today. “I remember quite a few times leaving the farm at the end of the day and Elmer would still be in the fields with stacks of produce to deliver to the Food Bank,” says Pete. “Even if he was a few volunteers short, he worked hard to get the job done and never once complained.”

Soliciting volunteers was something that Elmer had little experience with early on. He worked with the Grove Methodist Church initially to come up with lists of names. “There were no computers or cell phones back then. I did everything with pen, paper and my ear to the phone,” says Elmer. “I had to make schedules and have people ready to go when the crops were ready. There was no time to wait. I was so very fortunate with the many volunteers that have helped with gleaning over the years. They are the ones that make it all possible and worthwhile.”

Longtime volunteers Ed and Mary Fitzpatrick say, “We originally volunteered to assist Elmer with bread and pastries donations from Entenmann’s Bakery, which we boxed and loaded into cars or vans from the various agencies. One day, we discovered that Elmer was heading out to one of the produce farms in the area for some ‘real work’ and we were hooked. It was not unusual to arrive at the site to find he had already started the more difficult tasks himself. When he recruited us to come out at a certain hour, we knew to arrive much earlier because he would have started alone.”

Today, the Chester County Food Bank still requires volunteers to work alongside their staff farmers, Bill Shick and Edil Cunampio. Lots of people, like you, who only need devote a few hours or more to making a difference whether it’s planting or harvesting from one of our now many partnered farms or working in our Eagleview location in the kitchen. As our honorary volunteer chairperson Elmer so simply and wholeheartedly illustrates, thinking outside of ourselves creates an opportunity to improve the quality of lives for others. Elmer and his diverse team are also proof that volunteers of all ages and interests are needed and welcomed. Love to garden? Great! Prefer to help elsewhere along the food chain? That works, too.

Those who speak of Elmer refer to his humility. Never one to take credit for being the first to arrive in the field or the last to leave, Elmer also trained all the volunteers and helped deliver fresh produce from the back of a station wagon.

Elmer has bounced back from hip, cataract and heart surgery. His story continues to serve as a reminder to all of us of how dedication, creativity and hard work generate positive results for our community. Thank you, Elmer. We appreciate you.

Editor’s Note: Elmer lost his brave and quiet battle with cancer on May 6, 2017, surrounded by his beloved family. We vow to carry on his legacy.

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, schools and social service organizations throughout Chester County. We mobilize our communityto ensure access to real, healthy food.

Ed Williams

Top photo by Ed Williams

Get Involved: 4 Ways You Can Help the Food Bank This Fall

Now that the kids are back at school, the Chester County Food Bank—a local nonprofit organization that collects, grows, purchases, processes, stores and distributes food to over 120 food cupboards and meal sites throughout the county—has some immediate needs so that they can help to feed the hungry in our community. While you may be dreaming of pumpkin spice lattes, there are people in our own neighborhoods who don’t know when they will get their next nutritious meal. Here are a few ways you can help:

Weekday Volunteers

Dedicated students helped out all summer in the kitchen and at area farms. Now that these students are back to school, the Food Bank has many available shifts for weekday volunteers. This is a great opportunity if you’ve been looking to join in and help.

Signing up to volunteer is easy via the online volunteer calendar. Once you create a profile, you can register for the workdays of your choosing.

The Food Bank is also accepting group volunteer requests for shifts now until December. This is a great activity for a church, business or moms’ club to give back to the community. Email volunteer@chestercountyfoodbank.org today with three potential dates, as well as your preferred time and location—kitchen or farm. It’s that simple!

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Weekend Backpack Program

Did you know the Chester County Food Bank has a weekend backpack program for food-insecure students? The program helps children get nutritious and easy-to-prepare food so that they don’t go hungry over the weekend. At the discretion of school officials, food is offered not only to students eligible for free or reduced meals, but also to students who fall within the gap of ineligibility for the school meal subsidy programs.

Volunteers are needed to pack resealable bags with a rotating variety of shelf-stable food items that the Food Bank distributes weekly from October through May to 10 school districts in Chester County, including after-school programs and Head Start sites.

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Back to School Food Drive

Heading back to school is a great time for food drives! Whether through a sports team, an on-campus service organization or a theater performance group, there are so many opportunities to get students involved in the issue of food insecurity. It’s a great time for companies to participate in back to school-themed food drives, too. The most needed items currently are pasta, rice, canned tuna and chicken, cereal, oatmeal and canned fruit and vegetables. Visit the Food Bank’s website for more information on how to host a successful food drive.

Donate

Short on time and can’t volunteer? No problem! The Chester County Food Bank accepts monetary donations to support all of its programs. Your financial contribution helps the Food Bank serve our Chester County neighbors who struggle with hunger and food insecurity. Cash donations support innovative programs to address the root causes of hunger through advocacy and education. Monetary donations also allow Chester County Food Bank to purchase bulk food and fresh produce.

Donating is easy. Contact us via email or phone (610-873-6000) or donate directly online.

To find out more about programs, news and how to get involved with Chester County Food Bank, visit the organization’s website and be sure to follow along on Facebook.

The Chester County Food Bank is located at 650 Pennsylvania Dr. in Exton; phone: (610) 873-6000.