Getting the food out, one year into the pandemic

Charol Lane (L) and June Blackmon (R) spent weeks preparing for the April distribution at Refuge Evangelical Church. Blackmon has been volunteering with the pantry since 2012, and Lane says she’s been there “too many years to count!”


At Refuge Evangelical Church, one of Philabundance’ 350 distribution partners, volunteer June Blackmon says monthly food distribution comes down to three simple things: “Logistics, logistics, logistics.”


Blackmon, who has volunteered at the church since 2012, says she and her fellow volunteers spend weeks organizing food, scheduling volunteers and deliveries, and packing food into pre-made bags–all in preparation for their monthly distributions to about 100 households.


“It’s a lot of work,” says Blackmon, “but I’m giving something back to my community.”


Like many organizations, Refuge Evangelical had to change its operations due to COVID-19. Before the pandemic, pantry clients could shop the shelves and choose what they wanted to bring home for their families.


“If you didn’t want green beans, you’d leave ‘em for the next person,” says Charol Lane, the pantry coordinator at Refuge Evangelical.


But due to social distancing practices put in place during the pandemic, the pantry decided to pre-bag food to minimize time spent mingling. That’s meant a lot of work for volunteers like Blackmon, who pack heavy bags with food and organize them into eight stations. In the end, each family receives close to 50 pounds of food each month.


Philabundance helps pantries like Refuge Evangelical Church maintain records of their clients who receive food from federal programs. Cathy Faatz speaks with a pantry client to help update their information for the program.


Philabundance has been an integral part of Refuge Evangelical’s operation for more than 20 years. Our weekly produce hub makes sure the pantry has access to healthy fruits and vegetables, and the pantry orders dry goods from our North Philadelphia warehouse. Philabundance staff also help the pantry keep accurate records for government programs like The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP).


Through the pandemic, Philabundance has been helping organizations like Refuge Evangelical shift its operations to keep getting food to our neighbors throughout the Philadelphia region. Often times, that means reimagining distributions and looking for new volunteers to help meet the increased workload.

“If you want to volunteer, we need you,” says Lane.


And as volunteers like June Blackmon will tell you, there’s plenty of work to go around. “If I come home and I’m not tired, I know I didn’t do enough.”


If you are interested in learning about how you can help feed people through Philabundance, email us at

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