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Frozen food storage and transportation helps feed those served by food pantries (video)

By Bob Keeler
Staff Writer
Montgomery Media

Six area food pantries just got more help in providing meats and other types of protein to those who face the risk of going hungry.

“When you get a fresh product, you have to get it out right away, or if you have a frozen product, not everybody has the storage space to be able to keep those things stored,” said Sue Zomberg, director of Keystone Opportunity Center’s Interfaith Hospitality Network.

Clemens Food Group’s Hatfield Quality Meats and CFC Logistics will be donating and storing surplus products for the six Nutrition Coalition food pantries. Philabundance is providing a refrigerated truck to take the frozen items from CFC in Milford Township, Bucks County, to Manna on Main Street in Lansdale, a centralized pick-up point for the other five pantries.

The Nutrition Coalition food pantries are at Manna on Main Street, Lamb Foundation in North Wales, Keystone Opportunity Center in Souderton, Hatfield Church of the Brethren in Hatfield, Emmanuel Evangelical Church in Hatfield and the Shepherd’s Shelf in Towamencin.

The frozen storage and distribution program was unveiled June 3, but planning for it began more than a year ago when Zomberg and others, including a Clemens manager, were part of the 2009-2010 year Indian Valley Chamber of Commerce Community Leadership Institute. A community service project is part of the CLI program.

“They [Clemens] offered the opportunity for cold or frozen storage and we talked a lot about that and what the implications would be, what would you need?” Zomberg said.

The issues, which included dealing with the limited space in the pantries and the logistics of getting the frozen stored items to the pantries on a schedule that fit in with the distributions, have now been worked out, she said.

“They’ve had some food donations that needed to be frozen, and that was stored up there a couple months now, but now they’ve gotten the plan together to be able to distribute the commodities,” Zomberg said.

The frozen storage space will allow larger donations or groups of donations to be made at a time, as well as adding more meats to the products distributed through the food pantries, she said.

“We’re going to be able to see food that’s been stored loaded into trucks and then distributed to the local pantries,” Zomberg said, “which is a big deal because all the local pantries talk about that they don’t have space.”

Keystone has been fortunate to also have donated space near its pantry in which non-perishable food items can be stored, Jennifer Ashley, operations and grants coordinator, said during a Keystone walking tour along Main Street, Souderton. The tours, held 7:30 a.m. Fridays, give a glimpse of some of the KOC facilities, including the food pantry, as well as information about the organization’s programs and goals.

Each month, the Keystone food pantry provides supplemental food for an average of 200 to 250 families living in the Souderton Area School District, Richard Aichele, executive director, said.

KOC programs also include shelter and transitional housing and English as a Second Language, literacy and other educational programs.

A donated house in Souderton is used by KOC as a day center for families in the Interfaith Hospitality Network. The IHN provides shelter housing in area churches for the families.

“Last year, we had 17 families and 52 guests go through that house,” Aichele said.

The number of calls being received by Keystone is increasing under the current economic conditions, he said.

“Some people call it a meltdown,” Aichele said. “It’s been a challenge for a lot of people.”

While many of those coming to Keystone in the past were individuals or single mother families, there is now an increasing amount of families in which there are two adults in the household, Brenda Oelschlager, development officer, said.

Upcoming Keystone Opportunity Center walking tours are scheduled for June 17, July 15 and 29, Aug. 12, Sept. 9 and 23 and Oct. 7 and 21. The tours, beginning at 7:30 a.m. at Keystone’s 104 Main Street, Souderton offices, last about an hour and include coffee and a light breakfast. To reserve a spot on a tour, call 215-723-5430 ext. 121.

About 60 percent of Keystone’s income comes from government grants, Aichele said.

With cutbacks in many of those funding sources, he said, Keystone is hoping tax-deductible donations from community members or businesses will help fill the gap.

“We’re encouraging people to give it to us and then deduct it,” Aichele said. “They can see the money go to work in our own community.”

See original article with video, here.

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