Everyone has felt the pain of hunger, but not everyone knows the struggle of prolonged food insecurity. There are currently more than 40 million Americans struggling with food insecurity, many of whom are children.
For more than 35 years, the Feeding America organization and its network of food banks have been helping people across the US get increased access to the food they need. The organization’s founder, John van Hengel, was working in a soup kitchen when a woman suggested to him the idea of a food bank—a place where discarded food could be collected and dispersed to people who need it. After success with an initial food bank in Phoenix, Arizona, Hengel helped establish a national network in 1979, which eventually became the Feeding America organization.
Today, Feeding America is made up of 200 different food banks and 60,000 food pantries across the US, and in 2017, provided more than 4.2 billion meals to people in need.
As a national organization, Feeding America would not be able to help so many people without the efforts of its local partners.
In the Philadelphia area, one in five people face the plight of hunger. Through the Philabundance organization, employees, volunteers, and other local businesses are working to put an end to that statistic.
Philabundance was founded in 1984, and has since become a leader in the Delaware Valley for the fight against food insecurity. “There is a misunderstanding that Philabundance only serves homeless people, or that only homeless people are facing food insecurity,” says Sean Breslin, executive assistant for Philabundance. “In reality, hunger hits every zip code in America.”
Of the 90,000 people in the Philadelphia area per week who receive food from Philabundance, more than half are working. Many are single women, working to provide for their children, and senior citizens.
According to leaders in the Philabundance organization, the majority of the people they serve are working Americans who often have to make the unfortunate choice between paying their bills and having enough to eat.
As a member of Feeding America, Philabundance can ensure that all of the food it distributes is of the highest standard, and that it’s able to not only provide meals to people who need them, but that the meals are healthy and nutritious.
A Network of Volunteers
Philabundance and similar organizations throughout the US are always in need of volunteers. There are opportunities in a number of areas at Philabundance, including at its main distribution center—packing and sorting boxes for donation—rescuing produce at the Philadelphia Wholesale Produce Market, with Fresh For All, a traveling produce market, and grocery rescue volunteers to pick up discarded food for distribution.
“Every month, we do about 5,000 boxes for seniors,” says Philabundance executive director Glenn Bergman. “If we did not have volunteers helping us put those boxes together, we would have to pay labor to do that. So, there’s about $1.5 million a year in volunteer labor.”
Along with their time, Philabundance also encourages people to give back in other ways—through monetary donations, food donations and collections, and through advocating for the organization’s mission.
In 2017, Philabundance was able to distribute 25 million pounds of food across the Delaware Valley, a feat that wouldn’t have been possible without donations and the work of volunteers and employees. Every dollar is two meals that can help feed families facing food insecurity, proof that every little bit counts when it comes to putting an end to hunger.