Hunger Hits Montgomery County
“When you don’t have much money, you can’t get much, including the fruits and vegetables you need.” Barb Grote, 52.
In the far reaches of Montgomery County bordering Bucks County, where new housing developments meet hundred year old farms, you’ll find the picturesque borough of Souderton where people pick fresh fruit off of their trees and sell it on their front lawn to passing travelers. Ironically, while some pick fruit, others don’t have any; Beyond the rolling green hills and corn fields, there’s a well-kept secret: hunger.
Philabundance’s Fresh For All program is a travelling farmer’s market which sets up at the same time, the same day at the same place each week. For some of the local residents, it’s a life saver. People like Barb Grote.
Barb is a 52-year-old medical diet aide who works ten-hour shifts. Last summer, her knees buckled and the incident weakened her arthritic knees which couldn’t take it anymore. While she fell, she didn’t give up.
“I don’t want to be on the government payroll. I went to work for a week and a half after and it got to the point where I couldn’t stand.” So she had to go out on disability.
While out of work, she earns just sixty percent of her pay (but pays full price for benefits), stretching an already-tight budget beyond its means. Her physical therapy costs $50 a session, and she needs it three times a week, plus the cost of her medications often breaks the bank.
Again, she didn’t give up; Barb secured a discount for her physical therapy, as well as food assistance from Philabundance agency Manna on Main Street, and did what she could to literally get back on her feet, including joining the local Y.
Barb noted that it wasn’t the new physical therapy or exercise regimen or limited budget that was so challenging — her doctor suggested a diet to help her lose weight and get back to work quicker.
“I’m having a harder time with the dieting part. The cost of fresh fruits and vegetables is outrageous and I don’t drive so I can’t get to where they offer it cheaper.”
That’s where Fresh For All has made a big difference.
When she can get to Fresh for All, she gets just about 10 pounds of fresh, healthy produce per week, especially fruits, which she loves, and vegetables, which she says her son really appreciates.
Even better than the free food is the great news that she’s going back to work next month.
“I’m looking forward to going back to work… I miss the residents I worked with and my co-workers. Going back will be helpful to them and I’m going back stronger, which is important.”
While going back to work means not visiting this idyllic location in Souderton anymore, it also means more money, and less need for this source of temporary assistance, which will, as always, be there should she need it in the future.
UPDATE: Barb has since returned to work and happily no longer visits Fresh For All.