Tag Archives: weekend backpack

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.

Be a Good Neighbor: Keep Your Giving Local

The past decade has seen an amazing cultural shift in terms of consumer behavior: the trend of buying local. What began as a philosophy has blossomed into an organized, intentional way of small companies marketing their wares, and of communities supporting their own microeconomies. Perhaps you’ve seen the Buy Fresh Buy Local logo on various Pennsylvania-grown or -made products or produce from the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture. This is just one example of how the local food movement has become promoted in mainstream food systems.

Even if you can’t buy everything “local,” we’ll bet you enjoy perusing your community’s farmers markets for peak-season produce and chatting with the folks who grew it. Isn’t it nice to be able to ask the farmer how often she sprays her orchards, or the gent selling mushrooms how to best use exotic king trumpet mushrooms? Shopping local isn’t just about getting higher-quality goods and keeping your carbon footprint lower — in addition to those benefits, it provides a sense of connection, breaking through the walls that stand between the consumer and the producer when you shop at big box stores and supermarkets.

So if you love to shop local, why not keep your charitable giving local as well? We understand that, especially these days, most of us are inundated with donation requests — some for causes that reach around the world. And while we recognize the important of many of these l initiatives, if you care about keeping your dollars in Chester County, we encourage you to keep your giving local.

By donating to Chester County Food Bank, either by giving money, participating in food drives or sharing your time as a volunteer, you’re helping to strengthen your very own community. Instead of donating money to an organization where you’ll never see the outcome or results, investing in CCFB and our mission yields results that you can see for yourself all year long. Perhaps you come to our annual Open House to see our facilities and meet our dedicated staff and volunteers. You can see our trucks out on local roads, coming back from a produce auction or distributing food from our warehouse to one of our many member agencies. There may be kids in your child’s classroom who receive weekend backpacks so they’re not hungry over the weekends, or senior citizens living on your block whom we help to feed with food boxes or Meals on Wheels. Or maybe your church or community center is a host to garden plots that are part of our popular Raised Bed Garden Program, which yields more than 40,000 pounds of fresh food each year to help give our neighbors in need nutritious and delicious produce to enjoy.

All around us, in our own cities and towns in Chester County, are the visible fruits of our labor and the outcomes of our donors’ generosity. If you want to experience the satisfaction of thinking globally but donating locally, consider making a gift to Chester County Food Bank today! No amount is too small (head here to see all the things $20 can do at CCFB), and donations can also be made monthly or in someone’s memory or honor.

Want to learn more? Watch our our new mission video, sign up for our newsletter and stay connected. You can also donate food, funds and time to help us achieve our mission. Call (610) 873-6000 to speak to someone about getting involved or requesting a tour. Thanks to you, we’re growing a healthier community.

The Chester County Food Bank is the central hunger relief organization serving more than 120 food cupboards, meal sites and social service organizations throughout Chester County. We mobilize our community to ensure access to real, healthy food.

Emily Kovach

Featured photo: Bigstock; all other photos: Chester County Food Bank

How Far Your $20 Can Go at Chester County Food Bank

What can you do with a $20 bill? Put some gas in your car, take a friend out to a movie, maybe pick up a new book or DVD. One place $20 won’t go very far, we’ve noticed, is the grocery store. Have you ever run into the store just to “buy a few things,” and walked out with a half-full bag and $50 less in your bank account? While the cost of food is lower in the United States than in many countries with similar economies, it can still seem pretty expensive while doing your shopping.

That’s just one of the reasons we’re so proud of our purchasing power at Chester County Food Bank. We take your $20 donation so much further than you could spend it in a supermarket. This is possible through our relationships with local farmers, from whom we buy surplus produce; by pursuing exceptionally priced deals with food wholesalers and by making frequent trips to the Leola Produce Auction, where we scout out the best deals on fruits and veggies that Amish and Mennonite farmers bring in by the truckload.

Take a minute to envision what $20 might purchase at a regular market, and then check out how far your $20 donation could go at Chester County Food Bank:

  • Four weekend backpacks: For many of the 18,000 children in our community who rely on free or reduced-price meals at school, the weekends can be tough. Our Weekend Backpack program combats food insecurity for these kids with nutritious, family-friendly ingredients to keep them fed all weekend long. A typical weekend backpack might contain rice, chicken, oatmeal, milk, trail mix, raisins and cans of fruits and veggies. One $20 bill can provide weekend meals for four kids.
  • 20 boxes of cereal: Can you imagine how much 20 boxes of even the cheapest cereal would run you at the grocery store? Because our buying power and warehouse storage allows us to purchase in bulk, we can get remarkably good deals on dry goods such as cereal. Your $20 donation could purchase 20 boxes of cereal to help feed our neighbors in need.
  • 80 pounds of fresh produce: Chester County Food Bank is able to distribute nearly one million pounds of fresh produce per year. Although our Raised Bed Garden and Farming programs provide us with some of that produce, the majority comes from items that we purchase at auction. The prices at the Leola Produce Auction are so low that, on average, we can buy many fruits and veggies for 25 cents per pound! That means a $20 donation can help us buy 80 pounds of nutrient-packed produce, like fresh broccoli.
  • 80 pounds of rice or dried beans: One of the most economic ways we can stretch $20 is by buying bulk dried beans and grains and then bagging them up into smaller portions. Imagine an 80-pound heap of rice — that’s what your donation could accomplish by allowing us to purchase bulk goods at 25 cents per pound!
  • A complete Thanksgiving dinner for a family: Though we believe every meal is important, holiday meals can add extra pressure for families struggling to make ends meet. For $20, we can provide a full Thanksgiving meal with all the trimmings for one family of 6 to 8 people. This includes a whole turkey, potatoes, vegetables, stuffing, cranberry sauce and gravy. For the price of a cheap lunch date, you can provide a memorable Thanksgiving for a hungry family in our community.

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

Keeping Chester County’s Kids Fed with Weekend Backpacks

We have a saying around here that goes, “Hunger never takes a break.” The statement is simple, but true: this basic human need affects people of all demographics. But food insecurity is a particularly pressing issue for our most vulnerable neighbors—children and seniors—who often rely on others to take care of them. Nearly 14,000 children in Chester County qualify for free or reduced price lunches through the National School Lunch Program and the National School Breakfast Program. It is a huge help to children and their families that meals during school are provided, but that doesn’t help to address the weekend. Hunger definitely doesn’t take a break just because it’s a Saturday or Sunday.

This realization was the impetus behind our Weekend Backpack program, a food distribution initiative that brings nutritious foods to children at school every Friday. Using a rotating variety of shelf-stable foods that are purchased by the Food Bank, volunteers pack resealable bags for local children, and these bags are put into backpacks of qualifying students at schools and after-school programs. The bags are filled with easy-to-prepare foods like macaroni and cheese, canned tuna and peanut butter, and help make sure that families have enough to eat during the weekends.

The students who take the backpacks home are those eligible for free or reduced meals, and also, at the discretion of school officials, those who aren’t eligible for the school meal subsidy programs, but may be facing crises or ongoing problems at home that make food scarce. From November 1, 2016, through June 1, 2017, our Backpack program distributed approximately 121,391 pounds of food to children throughout Chester County.

One of the schools that is part of our Weekend Backpack program is the Chester County Family Academy (CCFA), an elementary charter school in West Chester (also one of the sites of our Fresh2You Mobile Market!). This year, CCFA has 110 students coming from West Chester, Coatesville, Downingtown, Great Valley and Kennett Square. About half of the students are ESL students, and approximately 97 percent qualify as economically disadvantaged.

“Basically, our whole school is at risk for social, emotional and financial challenges,” said the school’s CEO, Susan Flynn. “Because our students qualify under the free and reduced lunch program, we provide breakfast, lunch and snacks for our students, but what happens on the weekends? When they come to us on Monday morning, you can see them waiting for their breakfasts.”

For the past four years, the Chester County Food Bank has been delivering weekend backpacks on Fridays to students at CCFA. Susan says she can really see the importance of the program and the difference it’s been making to her students. “We’re only kindergarten through second grade, and you see the kids carrying home these packs that are five or six pounds! Our children feel fulfilled by this; they feel strong because they’re carrying these backpacks and because they’re taking on this responsibility of helping to provide food to their families,” she said.

Susan also notes that every family in the school is offered a weekend backpack, so none of the students feel different or singled out. She says that she and the other teachers never emphasize being worried about the kids or their families, or hunger issues—they simply try to make the experience exciting and special.

“We make sure they know they need to bring their special backpack back on Monday, and the children get excited because there’s always something in there for them and for their families!” she said.

Susan reports that the families appreciate and need the food, and are aware that CCFB is the organization behind the backpacks. The program helps to take a huge burden off many of these families. “They know their children will be fed,” Susan explained. “And this is so important, because if you’re not being fed, you don’t have energy and you can’t learn.”

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: Chester County Family Academy