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Philabundance is Appealing to the Community to Help Combat the Produce Shortage

Philabundance is forced to cut back the fruits and vegetables available to those who need them most

PHILADELPHIA — April 19, 2010 — A harsh winter, the devastating earthquake in Chile, and a rise in fuel prices have compounded to drive up the cost of produce. As a result, normal produce donations to Philabundance are down by 45 percent compared to this time last year. These tight market conditions are expected to remain until at least mid-July, which means less fruits and vegetables are being distributed to people in need of food assistance.

Sixty-five percent of the food that Philabundance distributes is fresh produce. Fresh For All, a Philabundance program that puts produce into the hands of those who need it, has 12 sites in Pennsylvania and New Jersey and each week provides 2,500 households with fruits and vegetables that are usually too expensive for many families to afford. The shortage means Fresh For All sites will now be limiting their offering to only one or two items, instead of the normal four to six types of fruits and vegetables.

The agencies Philabundance serves, made up of food pantries, shelters, and emergency kitchens, are also being impacted. Philabundance is forced to cut back on the amount of weekly produce sent to agencies, which is forcing some to turn people away due to a lack of adequate supplies.

“It is essential for Philabundance to continue to provide a consistent quantity and variety of fresh fruits and vegetables to families in need in the Delaware Valley,” says Bill Clark, Philabundance’s president and executive director. “The people we reach are in communities with the greatest need, who have little or no access to healthy produce. In order to keep delivering healthy food choices we will need to temporarily purchase produce, which we have done only during emergencies like this.”

“Donations to our Food Purchase Fund will help us buy the fruits and vegetables required to make up the donation shortfall,” says Clark. “We are speaking with our suppliers on a daily basis in an effort to negotiate the very best prices, and stretch our dollars as far as they will go.”

The major cause for this decrease in availability is the harsh winter and resulting crop damage in the southern states. Due to the lack of fresh produce, Philabundance must substitute more dry goods, which, in turn, is draining the inventory much faster than normal at a time when the recession is still generating record numbers of families seeking relief.

Fruits and vegetables are typically donated from national and local food manufacturers, wholesalers, growers, importers, retailers, brokers and food distributors. However, while there is still product in stock for brokers and wholesalers across the country, the high cost of the produce combined with the increase in fuel costs make it nearly impossible for companies to donate what they used to.

Philabundance is calling on the community for contributions to the Food Purchase Fund to help buy the fruits and vegetables it needs. To make a monetary donation to the Food Purchase Fund, visit www.philabundance.org.

About Philabundance
Philabundance is the region’s largest hunger relief organization fighting hunger and malnutrition in the Delaware Valley. Philabundance provides a full plate of services to close to 500 member agencies in nine counties, who serve approximately 900,000 low income residents. Philabundance provides food to approximately 65,000 people per week, at an aggregate cost of less than 30 cents per meal. In 2009, Philabundance distributed 17 million pounds of food in the Delaware Valley. For more information about Philabundance, call 215-339-0900 or visit www.philabundance.org.

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