Philadelphia’s largest hunger relief organization, Philabundance is providing sustenance to more members of our community than ever. Find out how you can help the people in your area.
I find that the subject of gratitude is often reserved for stories that are being published in the days leading up to Thanksgiving. I’m not sure why… I guess for the same reason that eggnog gets talked up in December. You don’t pour yourself a tall cold glass of eggnog in May just for the heck of it. It’s a holiday special, as gratitude is often revered as something you share in the company of friends and loved ones toward year’s end.
I made three trips to the grocery store in the past week to stock up on (mostly) essentials. On my last visit — today — I hunted down and purchased 8 cans of black and garbanzo beans. They, along with bread, basically all paper products, pasta — they’ve been nowhere to be found. So realizing that chili could actually be a thing this week made me feel as though I’d won the lottery.
I was happy. And I was grateful.
This week, Free People donated $25000 to local hunger relief organization, Philabundance. Perhaps that’s why gratitude hit me a little harder today. 1 in 5 people in Philadelphia — and 1 in 9 across the US — are considered food insecure, and certainly not at liberty to satiate a craving. I reached out to Philabundance’s Director of Communications, Stefanie Arck-Baynes, to find out how we as a community can give back to those who need it, now more than ever.
Can you tell us how Philabundance got its start? And does Feeding America provide similar outreach nationwide?
Philabundance was started by one woman, Pamela Rainey Lawler, out of the back of her car in 1984. She saw restaurants throwing out food, and at the same time, people going hungry. She decided to do something about it. 36 years later, it is one of the largest hunger relief organizations in in the greater Philadelphia area, which provided more than 26 million pounds of food to those in need in 2019.
Philabundance is a proud member of Feeding America, a national organization of 200 of the country’s top-performing food banks.
Can you tell us about your primary operations, and how they have shifted in light of the current climate? How have you been able to react?
On a regular basis, Philabundance serves 90,000 people each week through a network of 350 social service agencies, including pantries, houses of worship, schools and libraries. This food comes in through generous grocery partners, the port of Philadelphia, the Philadelphia wholesale produces market, smaller retail partners and some, through the government. Philabundance handles all logistics to get that food from the store to people’s tables.
Since the health emergency began, some agencies have closed, particularly those that are volunteer-run, or run by the most vulnerable in our communities — seniors. We need to continue to serve those in need — and so many more impacted by job loss, school closures or quarantine procedures — as well as find new ways to provide this service is a way that is safe for our staff and volunteers who continue their dedicated service. For example, we are limiting volunteer shifts to 20 (from 30) people to ensure appropriate social distancing when they work. We’re also shifting to more shelf-stable items so that food providing is good longer, since we don’t know how long this will last.
How can readers help you in your mission (most likely remotely), either in Philadelphia or through Feeding America?
There are many ways to get involved with Philabundance and other food banks, most of which can be done from afar:
Food banks buy in bulk as at wholesale prices, stretching your dollar further. We also know what’s needed most in the communities we serve.
Restaurants and stores: Donate food.
If your operations are suspended, you likely have food that we and our clients could use now.
For those who are healthy, not in a high-risk population and don’t live with a senior or someone who is immune-compromised, you can volunteer, either in-person or as a driver who picks up or drops off food.
For those in need of food, call the Why Hunger Hotline at 1-800-5-HUNGRY or visit this site — we’ve got you.