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Tons on their plates

News Source: South Philly Review

By: Joseph Myers

Phil­abund­ance and its part­ners in provid­ing qual­ity meals for the dis­tressed launched an am­bi­tious Hun­ger Ac­tion Month cam­paign.

More than three dec­ades ago, Pamela Rainey Lawl­er, find­ing her­self a mem­ber of the cor­por­ate world, a realm that of­ten ends up saddled with ad­ject­ives such as “un­car­ing,” “selfish,” and “in­su­lar,” knew her heart had great­er as­pir­a­tions, lead­ing her to feast on the real­iz­a­tion of just how fam­ished many area in­di­vidu­als were. She com­menced fur­ther re­search on their plight and re­spon­ded in 1984 by start­ing Phil­abund­ance. On Sept. 8, she, her peers, and fig­ures from oth­er al­tru­ist­ic en­tit­ies united at her brainchild’s Hun­ger Re­lief Cen­ter, 3616 S. Gal­lo­way St., to launch a month-long ini­ti­at­ive de­signed to di­min­ish hun­ger’s rum­bling pres­ence in the Delaware Val­ley.

“I wasn’t in the food in­dustry or so­cial ser­vices, but I had to act some­how,” the in­nov­at­or said of es­tab­lish­ing the re­gion’s largest hun­ger re­lief or­gan­iz­a­tion. “So many years later, we’ve made great gains, but there is still so much more work to do.”

The #PlateIt­For­ward cam­paign is the or­gan­iz­a­tion’s latest com­mit­ment to ad­dress­ing this ever- worth­while battle. Phil­abund­ance is striv­ing to raise $20,000 and 10,000 pounds of food to provide 50,000 meals, with the pub­lic able to lend a help­ing hand via dona­tions, ad­vocacy en­deavors and vo­lun­teer ef­forts. Aman­da White, pub­lic re­la­tions co­ordin­at­or for Phil­abund­ance, proudly pro­claimed last week that Fin­ger­paint, a mar­ket­ing in­nov­a­tion agency whose ad­vert­ise­ment in­volve­ment with na­tion­al en­tit­ies has yiel­ded nu­mer­ous ac­col­ades, will match all dona­tions up to $7,500. This will mean that four meals, rather than two, will be pos­sible through each donated dol­lar.

Rainey Lawl­er, in the pro­cess, will con­tin­ue to send an im­port­ant mes­sage to those in need.

“I star­ted Phil­abund­ance as my per­son­al emer­gency re­sponse to what I was see­ing, par­tic­u­larly the dis­par­ity between my life as someone who was part of a two-in­come fam­ily and the lives of those who couldn’t es­cape the pain of not hav­ing enough to eat,” she said. “Days like today are in­cred­ibly im­port­ant be­cause we need to col­lab­or­ate to make this an all-year is­sue. We talk about hun­ger near the hol­i­days, but it doesn’t take a break, and neither will we.”

The former Passy­unk Square res­id­ent com­menced last week’s morn­ing gath­er­ing as part of Hun­ger Ac­tion Month, with her non-profit team­ing with Feed­ing Amer­ica, the ini­ti­at­ive’s ori­gin­at­or, to quell what she sees as a symp­tom of a much lar­ger prob­lem, poverty, a scourge that many loc­als must counter. De­scrib­ing her­self as dis­mayed that more has not oc­curred na­tion­ally to lift people out of their fin­an­cial doldrums, she feels even more be­wildered when pon­der­ing stat­ist­ics re­gard­ing the chal­lenges she and her col­leagues face.

“The num­bers are ap­palling,” Rainey Lawl­er said of the hun­ger crisis in the Phil­adelphia area, where 25 per­cent of people struggle to know how they are go­ing to feed them­selves and their loved ones con­sist­ently, which is nearly twice the na­tion­al av­er­age. “We of­ten hear about how stricken oth­er coun­tries’ pop­u­la­tions are, but do­mest­ic hun­ger is such a daunt­ing is­sue that needs tire­less at­ten­tion and dis­cus­sion that leads to ac­tion.”

AT LAST WEEK’S event, Phil­abund­ance wel­comed per­son­nel from the Chester County Food Bank, The Food Trust, The Great­er Phil­adelphia Co­ali­tion Against Hun­ger, and The Share Food Pro­gram to the re­lief cen­ter. The part­ners have long sought to sup­port the loc­al agency, whose 2015 en­dow­ments totaled nearly 30 mil­lion pounds of food through neigh­bor­hood dis­tri­bu­tion pro­grams and its net­work of ap­prox­im­ately 350 mem­ber agen­cies in nine Pennsylvania and New Jer­sey counties. That massive uni­fic­a­tion of rev­er­ence for oth­ers still warms the heart of Janice Gomez six years after she needed to rely on help.

“You al­ways hear that life is un­pre­dict­able, and back in 2010, that be­came a real­ity for me,” the res­id­ent of the 400 block of Jack­son Street said. “I lost so much of what I had go­ing for me, in­clud­ing my job, so I had to seek many sources of help, in­clud­ing places to look for food. Phil­abund­ance was my sal­va­tion in many ways, and I’m etern­ally grate­ful.”

The Whit­man oc­cu­pant finds her­self so ap­pre­ci­at­ive that she in­tends to vo­lun­teer and donate cash to the cause. Her par­ti­cip­a­tion, the con­sid­er­a­tion of oth­er loc­als, and con­tin­ued lar­gesse to Phil­abund­ance, in­clud­ing a $45,000 Na­tion­wide Found­a­tion grant through Feed­ing Amer­ica, which will help it to fund its Fresh For All free pro­duce dis­tri­bu­tions at nine loc­a­tions each week, are the boons that state Rep. Donna Bul­lock hopes #PlateIt­For­ward and sub­sequent drives will foster.

“We know the num­bers are stag­ger­ing, so ac­tion is a must,” the 195th dis­trict fig­ure said. “Look at the stat­ist­ics for this city, and you’ll find your­self amazed that there are so many who are go­ing without an ab­so­lute ne­ces­sity.”

The first-term rep­res­ent­at­ive, whose dis­trict in­cludes parts of North and West Philly, ex­per­i­enced hun­ger as a child and re­called mak­ing soup kit­chen trips to a spot in New Brun­swick, N.J. She quickly learned that re­ceiv­ing should ne­ces­sit­ate giv­ing, so three dec­ades after she needed re­lief, she is hop­ing to provide the same sense of hope that has cata­pul­ted her to a life as a re­spec­ted polit­ic­al and com­mun­al voice.

“Like Pamela said, it’s great to be giv­ing and con­sid­er­ate dur­ing the hol­i­days, but ac­cu­mu­lat­ing re­sources throughout the year is what’s go­ing to cause shifts,” Bul­lock ex­plained. “Here we are in Septem­ber, but what about Feb­ru­ary, for ex­ample? What about the job of really striv­ing to elim­in­ate hun­ger?”

Hav­ing been in­volved with Phil­abund­ance for nearly six years, she com­mends the ex­ample of Rainey Lawl­er, who is a board mem­ber for her cre­ation, which serves ap­prox­im­ately 90,000 people per week, and vowed to seek le­gis­lat­ive and po­lice changes sur­round­ing hun­ger on the state level. That wide-reach­ing fo­cus meshes per­fectly with what her peer in pre­vent­ing people from go­ing without sought in es­tab­lish­ing the or­gan­iz­a­tion.

“There’s so much left to tackle, and we’ve worked hard to look at chan­ging demo­graph­ics and needs,” Rainey Lawl­er said in a nod to Phil­abund­ance’s out­reach, nearly 50 per­cent of which goes to­ward help­ing chil­dren and seni­ors. “We have to keep build­ing aware­ness and rais­ing funds, and cam­paigns like this are con­stant sources of hope.” SPR

Vis­it www.phil­abund­ance.org/hun­ger­ac­tion­month.

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