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Philabundance’s Frozen-Meat Giveaway Draws A Crowd

By Vernon Clark
Inquirer Staff Writer

In a sign of difficult economic times, a massive line of people formed in South Philadelphia on Monday to receive free frozen meat, frozen dinners, and dairy products.

More than 400 people were gathered at Front and Dickinson Streets about 1 p.m. to receive the food being distributed by Philabundance, the nonprofit organization devoted to providing free food to people in need.

“We serve a lot of unemployed people,” Tunisia Garnett, a program manager with Philabundance, said as she watched people walk up to tables set up under I-95.

Philabundance’s Mobile Food Center has been giving out food each Monday from 1 to 2 p.m. since mid-March. Garnett said there are no eligibility requirements, so anyone can come.

“We have people travel from as far as Burlington County,” said Garnett.

People of all races, with grocery carts, boxes, and plastic bags, formed a line more than a block long to receive frozen ground beef, veal cutlets, dinners, and other items that Garnett said were donated by Acme Markets, Target, and other stores.

“People line up three to four hours before we get here,” Garnett said.

Alice Gamble, 42, an unemployed hospital worker with a 16-year-old son, said the free food “has been a tremendous help.” Gamble, of South Philadelphia, said she was told she was ineligible for food stamps. “I’ve been here each week,” Gamble said. “I’ll be back next week.”

Kelly Hile, a program director who oversees direct-to-the public food distribution for Philabundance, said a larger crowd comes out for the frozen meat.

“These are frozen items that are expensive and have good health value,” Hile said.

Hile said the program began March 15, with 52 people lining up for the meat. It has increased steadily since, mainly by word-of-mouth, she said.

She said Philabundance has 15 other direct-to-the-public distribution sites, but that they offer only produce.

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