As the 2014 Thanksgiving holiday approaches, social service agencies are focusing on the new face of hunger and the fact that working families and children struggle with food insecurity as well as people living in poverty.
In recognition of the need to help feed hungry families, Delaware County Council has begun its 12th annual Thanksgiving Food Drive with a collection goal of 20,000 pounds of food. In 2013, the drive hit an all-time record of 18,622 pounds of food with the Department of Domestic Relations achieving the highest departmental collection at 1,407 pounds.
County Council, the County Department of Human Services and the County Department of Intercommunity Health (ICH) will again join with Magellan Behavioral Health of PA to collect non-perishable food to distribute to families in need.
This year, the Food Drive Committee has invited Delaware County high schools to collect food donations at a home football game.
Providers involved with local food assistance programs continue to report increasing demand for donations during these challenging economic times. Members of the public and businesses are invited to join county employees in placing donations in collection boxes located in the Government Center lobby, outside the sheriff’s office in the Courthouse, the Fronefield Building, which houses court services, Fair Acres main lobby(Building 8) and the Detention and 911 centers all located in Middletown; the County Office of Services for the Aging (COSA) in Eddystone, Children and Youth Services (CYS) office in Chester, and the Human Services offices in Upper Darby.
In addition, Gayle Oddi, the county’s food drive coordinator, and Julie Brown, of Magellan, continue their traditional wager: whoever collects the lesser amount of food must deliver their collected items wearing a large, colorful turkey costume.
County Council Chairman Tom McGarrigle announced the start of the 2014 drive: “The need for food assistance is greater now than ever. This is still a tough economy for many folks, and it is crucial that we continue to reach out to our families in need. It’s not just people living in poverty who face hunger; it’s senior citizens who choose between paying for food and paying for medicine; it’s families with children who are eating less, or eating less nutritious food. Those of us who are able should extend a helping hand to those who are less fortunate.”
This year, donations will be delivered on Thursday, Oct. 30th to the food bank at St. Mary’s Church in Chester with final delivery on Friday, Nov. 21st to the Church of the Nazarene in Collingdale.
Alan Edelstein, executive director of Family and Community Service of Delaware County (FCS), said there has been an economic upturn in recent years, but the recovery has been fragile.
“The number of families seeking assistance continues to rise,” he said.
FSC administers county food assistance programs and oversees the volunteer network of 12 food centers in the Delco Interfaith Food Assistance Network (DIFAN).
DIFAN Chairwoman Denina Hood, of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church food pantry in Chester, said DIFAN pantries provided 1.45 million meals to families in 2013-2014. That represents an increase of seven percent over the 1.35 million meals in the previous year.
“Families continue struggling to keep food on the table. While many folks have returned to work, they are working fewer hours at lower wages and have difficulty keeping up,” Hood said. “The DIFAN pantries represent a safety net for the working poor who want most to support their families, but who often find their limited incomes cannot be stretched any further.”
“In many cases, the families coming to us are no longer just supplementing their limited food supply. Now they are turning to us to meet their family’s basic daily food needs,” Hood said.
FCS and DIFAN suggest donating canned meats (chicken, tuna, ham), boxed or canned side dishes (rice/potatoes/pasta), peanut butter, jelly, unsweetened cereal, infant formula, coffee, tea, canned vegetables (tomatoes, beans, corn) and canned fruits and soups, especially main dish soups with meat.
Individuals who want to make donations or families who want information about the DIFAN food centers can call FCS, at (610) 566-7540. For more information about participation in the 2014 Thanksgiving Food Drive, contact OBH at (610) 713-2365.