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Philabundance gets some local help

By Dan Sokil
The Lansdale Reporter

Every Tuesday afternoon, dozens of local residents stop by the Grace Bible Church in Souderton and pick up some fresh produce provided by Philabundance, a nonprofit hunger relief organization.

But this Tuesday’s trip was more special than most, as Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Omar Gaither, team mascot Swoop, and officials from Israeli-based Teva Pharmaceuticals were on hand to help kick off a new partnership among Teva, the Eagles and Philabundance.

“We’ve been a longtime partner with the Philadelphia Eagles and support their ‘In the Community’ program, and as part of that support we reached out to the community to allow organizations to tell us what they thought we could help them with,” said Denise Bradley, Teva USA’s director of corporate communications.

“Philabundance came to us and said we could help them underwrite one of their Fresh for All trucks, and we liked the program so much we decided to underwrite two,” she said.

One of those trucks was on hand Tuesday afternoon in Souderton, distributing food and fresh produce to families in need, according to Marlo DelSordo, Philabundance director of marketing and communications.

“The Souderton Fresh for All site opened in the middle of October 2009, so it’s been in operation for a year now, and is currently providing 175 households every week with fresh produce and other foods like baked goods and breads,” said DelSordo.

Philabundance distributes food to roughly 65,000 people per week throughout the Delaware Valley, most of which is donated from wholesalers, distributors, and shippers who send their goods through the port of Philadelphia.

“Philadelphia is actually the second largest port for produce in the country, so we are very lucky to be in close proximity and do benefit greatly because most food banks typically do notdistribute produce,” DelSordo said.

“When times are tough, (produce) is the first thing that people cut off the grocery list. When your hours have been cut or you have to make that dollar stretch further, you’re not going to buy, say, fresh grapes,” she said.

Last year, Philabundance donated more than 17 million pounds of food throughout the Delaware Valley, and 2.5 million pounds of that total went out through a dozen Fresh for All sites in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

In its first year of operation, the Souderton site distributed 208,258 pounds of food, and only added to that total Tuesday afternoon.

And you’ll be able to help add to that total this weekend in $5 or $10 increments, when Philabundance partners with Giant Food Stores in Hatfield and Montgomery townships to take part in the agency’s Bag of Thanks program.

“It’s essentially a virtual food drive — we’re asking customers at the register to donate $5 or $10 and at the end of the drive, the value of those donations will be matched with the essential food,” said DelSordo.

“We do realize that for some folks, $5 or $10 is pretty significant, but it provides a bag with mashed potatoes, tuna fish, macaroni and cheese, carrots, rice — a full bag of groceries for several meals,” she said.

Bag of Thanks is a new effort for Philabundance this year, being piloted in a total of six stores including two in our area: The Giant Food Stores located at 1540 Cowpath Road in Hatfield Township and at 1202 Knapp Road in Montgomery Township will take part on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

“We’re really counting on this food drive to help restock our shelves, because as the need increases, our actual food donations are not keeping up with demand,” said DelSordo.

According to a survey of 500 Philabundance member agencies, the need for food assistance has increased by 22 percent since 2009 and by more than 66 percent since 2008, with more than 80 percent of the 500 agencies seeing increases in their numbers of clients this year.

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