Hunger Hits the Main Line
Paoli is located on the Main Line, one of the Delaware Valley’s wealthiest areas. So many may assume that its residents don’t face hunger. But they do.
Thanks to Philabundance agencies like The Church of the Good Samaritan’s food closet, there is a free service for local residents who need food assistance, and some “Main Liners” don’t have to worry about their next meal.
Dale, a Good Samaritan client for over a year, faced health and financial issues that lead her to seek help. While visiting another church’s food closet, she heard others talking about Good Samaritan – how organized and how friendly they are and how you can choose what you want, rather than being provided a bag of pre-packed groceries.
“The food closet helps me out a lot by being able to get groceries twice a month.”
In addition to the frequency of the closet (Good Samaritan invites clients to attend the closet twice a month), there is a social aspect to it, as well. While waiting, clients are invited to sit down in the communal cafeteria and enjoy cookies and coffee. “It’s like a community here.”
When asked what the food closet means to her, she pauses thoughtfully and answers: “It means I’ll be able to eat.”
Another client of Good Samaritan, Mrs. C., would not have dreamed she’d need to use the services of a food closet. She is a single working mom with a PhD, but recent health issues have caused her to use a wheelchair and seek the assistance of an aide. If that wasn’t enough, she lost access to food stamps leaving her with little access to healthy food. Her son lost 24 pounds in a short amount of time due to not having enough food and specifically, protein.
Now that she comes to the food closet, her son is gaining weight – she gets protein here.
“No one wants to be in a situation where they need to go to a food closet, but people here make you feel welcome — like part of a family.”
Charlene Fitzwater, Good Samaritan Food Closet Director, says they serve approximately 770 people at the food closet, and all their stories have to do with struggling from a financial perspective. Her clients come from all walks of life but they have one thing in common: hunger.
She knows that the vast majority of people think of wealth when they think of the communities along the Main Line. But she understands why so many are food insecure: “[it] is expensive here, so taking care of a family is difficult to do.”
One of the biggest issues she thinks her clients struggle with is misunderstanding.
“It’s embarrassing. It’s hard for folks to come. They’re not using the system. People who think that need to know how hard it would be to be part of a community and go to receive food.”
Charlene says that the goal of the food closet, aside from helping those facing hunger, is to welcome people with respect and kindness.
When asked to share a story or to talk about the clients, she became emotional.
“This story and memory gets me every time,” she says while wiping away tears.
She was at the church and met a man whose business had gone through a downturn. He was mortified to be there, and she was surprised to see him – he wasn’t someone she would have expected to be a client.
It was the first time she realized how blessed she is. And how it wouldn’t take much for her – or for anyone – to be in that situation. It could happen to anyone at any time.
She also talks about Good Samaritan’s partnership with Philabundance: “We really appreciate what Philabundance does – we couldn’t do what we do without your support.”
One third of the food in her food closet comes from Philabundance’s Grocer’s Against Hunger (GAH) program – a partnership that pairs agencies with local grocery stores to ensure nutritious food that would otherwise go to waste stays in the communities where it’s needed. And it’s definitely needed at Good Samaritan and on the Main Line.
As the food closet closed for the day, a client hugged Charlene and explained why she goes to Good Samaritan: “We come for the food and stay for the hugs.”