On a recent Tuesday morning, volunteers at the West Chester Food Cupboard loaded shopping carts with groceries for the line of cars that wound along the outside of the pantry’s warehouse.
“We give out the best foods,” Connie Gentile said proudly. Connie, a 22-year veteran volunteer, said the pantry has been providing car-side service since the beginning of the pandemic. This fall, the pantry will open their indoor shopping area to nearly 600 families each month.
“It’s better when people can choose the groceries they want,” Connie said. West Chester Food Cupboard is part of Philabundance’s Retail Rescue program, which collects food donations from grocery stores, caterers, and restaurants. They regularly receive food from several local grocers, including the GIANT on Downingtown Pike in West Chester. “The most important thing is helping people,” said Mark Ward, store manager. “If people are dealing with hunger, I want them to know what resources are out there so they can get help.”
In 2022, food from our Retail Rescue program represented nearly one-third of all food Philabundance sourced. More than 30 vehicles pick up donations from dozens of locations each week, including GIANT, Acme Markets, BJ’s Wholesale Club, and Wegman’s. Other partners like Amazon, Reading Terminal Market, GoPuff, and the Philadelphia International Airport Marketplace have been added since 2018.
“This is good, quality food!” said Kate Colyer, Director of Food Sourcing at Philabundance. “This program is amazing because we help solve a business problem, and they’re able to donate food. All those little donations have a big effect on our food systems, our communities, and the environment.” The strength of Retail Rescue is connecting stores to nearby pantries. The benefit is twofold: local donations are easier to transport safely and grocery partners have roots in the same community as pantries. “Those local connections are vital,” said Philabundance Program Manager, Grace Tarves. “These kinds of partnerships can lead to fantastic things, like a food drive or a volunteer day.”
As a member of Feeding America, Philabundance is part of a network of more than 250 food banks connecting with national retail chains. “Support from retail leaders is also essential,” said John Ruane, interim president at The GIANT Company and a member of the Philabundance Board of Directors.
“To truly eliminate hunger in the communities we serve, we know it takes the efforts of many and both big and small actions,” John said. “Thanks to our dedicated team members and partner hunger relief organizations like Philabundance, our retail food rescue program is one of the many ways The GIANT Company is delivering on its commitment to feeding our neighbors in need.”
“One of our pillars is trying to eliminate hunger,
and it’s important to do something in the communities we operate in,”
Mark, GIANT’s store manager said.
“What better way to do it?”