Are Your Neighbors Hungry?

I live in Chester County, PA which is considered one of the wealthiest areas in the country.  I see fancy cars on the road, fancy houses, fancy people.  What if I told you there are a lot of HUNGRY PEOPLE in Chester County?

From a recent Philly.com article: Poverty is increasing in Chester County – up from 4.5 percent in 2000 to 7.4 percent in 2012, census figures show. This despite the county’s designation as one of the richest in America.

That poor people are living on what scientists declare to be some of the finest soil in America doesn’t sit well with people such as Bill Shick, agriculture program manager for the food bank.

“It’s ironic, in the midst of plenty, to have so many hungry people,” said Shick, who was trained as a plant and soil microbiologist.  – Article HERE

The Chester County Food Bank is a hub of 90 hunger relief agencies in Chester County PA. They grow their own food and partner with area farms, community gardens and home gardeners to increase access of fresh food for their clients.The Food Bank distributes food, with a focus on nutritious and fresh, to a network of 30 cupboards and 61 meal sites.

Last year I volunteered at The Chester County Food Bank with my team from work and it was eye opening.  Hearing stories of families who live in houses that are more than they can afford, maybe due to a job loss and their kids aren’t getting food.  People surrounded by wealthy friends who are too proud to tell anyone that their husband lost his job and that they are struggling to make ends meet or that they don’t have enough food to put on the table.  Kids who won’t get to eat over the weekend when they aren’t in school, because there isn’t any food at home.  Parents who only make enough money to put food on the table for 3 weeks out of the month, and that last week they are scrounging for food to feed their families.  It’s much more common than we think.

This is where the Chester County Food Bank’s network of meal sites and cupboards come in.  At a cupboard, you can walk in, select the food that you need, and leave.   You don’t have to worry about being judged for struggling financially or feel embarrassed.  The Chester County Food Bank supports 30 cupboards!  This is incredibly important.  In some areas there might only be 1 or 2 cupboards, and they might only be open on certain days at certain hours, so if you miss that window because you are at work, you won’t have any food to take home.

The Chester County Food Bank also has the Backpack program.  From their website:

“Our Food Backpack Program is helping children so they don’t have to skip meals over the weekend or face two days without food.  The Food Bank purchases all of the food for the backpacks to ensure an adequate amount of food for each pack, to be able to keep the packs light in weight so it can be carried by a young child.

Volunteers & teachers at the school distribute the packs to the qualifying children. Teachers are so grateful for this program and tell us how the kids ask every week if they are getting food to take home. Educators know that a child facing hunger is unequipped to learn.”

We all know how true that is.  That’s why the term “hangry” has been adopted as a real word.  Hangry = angry because you are hungry.  It’s incredibly difficult to concentrate when you are hungry, let alone think of anything other than the fact that you are hungry.

The Chester County Food Bank also provides NUTRITION EDUCATION!  The Food Bank offers nutrition education programs so children and adults learn how to cook with and incorporate more fresh produce into their diets. A curriculum based program provides opportunities for children pre-K through grade 12 to learn about good nutrition and then apply this knowledge as they grow, harvest and sample fresh food from the school’s raised bed gardens and high tunnels that are donated by the Food Bank.

To help schools provide healthier choices in the cafeteria, and reduce costs, the Food Bank works with Chester County schools to enable them to procure locally grown produce through the Food Bank.

The Chester County Food Bank also has the Raised Bed Gardens Program.  They help you build the garden beds, you grow the food, give them back a percentage of the food, and you get to keep the rest.  “For the tens of thousands of people in Chester  County who lack the funds to buy the food they need, fresh produce is now available to them through our local food cupboards.”  This gives them access to locally grown, fresh foods and good nutrition.

Volunteers from all over the county have partnered with our cause, constructing and tending to gardens. Their harvest is gathered and distributed to the local food cupboards where, along with non-perishable food items, residents who are hungry can get the food they need.

Volunteer groups include local schools, churches, social organizations and businesses. The Chester County Food Bank works with  organizations to build,  plant and harvest produce. In 2009, the Food Bank started with just 25 beds at six sites. Today we have 621 gardens at 122 sites, including 49 schools.

Support your local food bank.  Do it before Thanksgiving, do it before Christmas and do it AGAIN in February when the food bank and cupboards have run out of food. We all think of donating food around the holiday season, but people are hungry year round.  These cupboards that people can go to to get what they need rely on your generosity to have food available on their shelves to give.  We’ve all had tough times in life.  We’ve all been in places where maybe we lost a job, were stretched financially or were completely broke all together.  Imagine having children and going through that.  Imagine not being able to feed your children.  Imagine running out of money three weeks into the month and not having enough to feed your family for that last week of the month.

These cupboards are important.  The food bank is important.  Their programs are incredibly important.

No one should go hungry.  Your neighbors could be struggling and you would never know it.  Many people have too much pride to tell their friends or ask for help, but they need our help.  Everyone needs help from time to time.  If you woke up this morning to an empty fridge and bare cabinets in your kitchen with no funds to go purchase food, what would you do?  How would you feel?  There are people right next to you who have to struggle with this every day.

If you live in Chester County and want to volunteer at The Chester County Food Bank with your office or with a group of friends, contact:  volunteer@chestercountyfoodbank.org

If you need food, this is a list of the cupboards in our area: CUPBOARDS

More info:

http://chestercountyfoodbank.org/

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