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Philabundance Puts Groceries in Chester

by Jessica Herring,
Philadelphia Business Journal

Read the original article on the Philadelphia Business Journal.

The city of Chester, Pa., which has been without a grocery store for more than 10 years, will soon be able to provide needy residents with low-cost, nutritious food. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation  .. donated $1 million to the food pantry Philabundance  .. to help build a new community food center in Chester. The food center will address food inequality by providing citizens with fresh produce and other food products at low prices, with some food free of charge.

The foundation, based in Princeton, N.J., donated $800,000 for the creatoin of the food center, $100,000 to help Philabundance expand food distribution, and $100,000 for Philabundance’s general operating costs.

The foundation chose Philabundance as a beneficiary after researching the negative effects of the economic downturn on people’s health.

“We thought that having healthy food resources in Chester would be a huge boost to that neighborhood and that city,” said Frederick Mann, vice president of communications of the foundation. “It was keeping with our desires to try to help people through this hard time, and investing in a smart project for the future that looks like a longer-term solution.”

Chester is an area long considered a “food desert” by the USDA, an area with inadequate access to mainstream grocery stores. It is also the fourth “hungriest” district in the United States, according to the Food Research and Action Center.

The center will try to reverse this stigma by offering residents a choice to buy affordable food according to their tastes instead of simply being handed a donation.

“Everyone has a basic right to have access to dependable, affordable food staples without having to travel too far to get them,” said Bill Clark, president and executive director of Philabundance. “The food center is a new model that will provide reliable access to food every day. Support from Robert Wood Johnson is essential in getting this project up and running sooner, so the residents of Chester can benefit from access to food staples in their own community.”

The donation contributes to the $4.5 million that is needed to open the center, which is under contract to be located in a building in the west end of Chester, close to public transportation. The 13,000-square-foot center will create 20 to 25 new jobs for local residents. The center is expected to open this year.

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