Valley Forge Tourism & Convention Board Augments Fall Hunger Drive with Online, Spring Edition
To help Montgomery County food pantries and soup kitchens recover from exhausting resources over the holidays and prepare stock for summer, the Valley Forge Tourism & Convention Board (VFTCB) has launched its first-ever Freedom from Hunger Spring Drive in March.
The fundraiser — once again held exclusively online — will run throughout the month.
It design is to continue to build awareness around increased nutritional need in Montgomery County, owing to economic forces that include the ongoing impact of inflation and with less available financial aid.
The fall edition of the Freedom from Hunger effort will continue; its next edition is set for September 2023.
Ebbing Resources, Growing Needs
The VFTCB is again partnering with the MontCo Anti-Hunger Network (MAHN), a coalition of hunger relief organizations working together to keep families stable with food assistance. MAHN provides resources to more than 60 food pantries and soup kitchens that feed those who are food insecure in Montco.
Donations to the food safety net system in the spring are remarkably low, according to Amanda Musselman, Executive Director of MAHN. And, 70 percent of the network MAHN serves continues to see a sustained increase in need.
For example, Ardmore Food Pantry at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church on the Main Line went from serving 85 households a week in July 2022 to 120 households currently. Some staff are concerned their pantry/kitchen may have to reduce hours and visits or even close.
“The highest volume of food donations comes into the pantries and soup kitchens during the holidays but then fades as the new year begins,” Musselman said.
“The start of 2023 is particularly challenging. As we move toward the summer months, pantries are additionally utilized, as many children lose access to daily meals at school.
“MontCo Anti-Hunger Network is excited to partner again with the Valley Forge Tourism and Convention Board through the Freedom from Hunger Virtual Food Drive. Hunger doesn’t take a spring or summer vacation, and neither can we.”
In 2022, MAHN experienced:
- An 85 percent increase in transportation costs
- A 12 percent increase in food costs,
- A 5 percent decrease in individual donations
Still, the organization was able to distribute 417,000 pounds in donated food — 44 percent of it rescued (87,063 meat, 78,642 dairy, and 52,144 produce) — to more than 184,000 meals/household visits.
A Safety Net Program Elapses
Owing to passage of the recent federal Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2023, starting in March, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipient households will no longer receive the Emergency Allotment (EA) additional payment created during the COVID-19 public health emergency and will resume receiving one SNAP payment per month.
“This program served as a critical safety net for many individuals throughout the pandemic, and we know this will create additional hardship for SNAP participants, especially older adults, who are already battling against high food prices when they visit the grocery store,” Musselman said. “Our local food assistance programs need immediate support as they prepare to meet this anticipated additional need.”
Monetary donations provide the greatest flexibility in combating hunger because MAHN can purchase food wholesale, saving the network anywhere from $1–$3 a pound, while immediately responding to critical needs.
“Our organization takes this commitment to the community extremely seriously,” said Mike Bowman, President & CEO of the VFTCB.
“We’re asking for everyone that is able — including other businesses — to step up and give anything they can because there are so many in need. As leaders, it’s our responsibility to take care of each other. These are our friends, our neighbors, our families, our children. And every dollar counts.
“Please, do the right thing, and join us in our commitment to fighting hunger together.”
How to Participate
The Freedom from Hunger Food Drive benefits all people accessing food pantry services, and was created as a farewell “gift” to Pope Francis in 2015 when the Pontiff stayed in Montgomery County at the St. Charles Borromeo Seminary during the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia.
To date, the VFTCB has collected more than 132,000 pounds of food to feed the hungry in Montco.
In its eighth year, the drive continues to support the community that the tourism board diligently promotes to visitors across the nation and around the world.
Freedom from Hunger springtime donations can be made on the VFTCB‘s dedicated, online site.
In addition, Montgomery County residents in need can find a list of food pantries and soup kitchens through the online listings supplied by MAHN.
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