As the 2013 Thanksgiving holiday rapidly approaches, Delaware County food centers report an increase in families seeking food assistance, and a dire need to restock their shelves. In recognition of the need to help feed hungry families, Delaware County Council kicked off the Annual Thanksgiving Food Drive, marking its 11th anniversary. This year, in the face of increasing need, the collection goal was upped to 15,000 pounds of food.
County Council, the County Department of Human Services, Office of Behavioral Health (OBH), and the County Department of Intercommunity Health (ICH) will once again join forces with Magellan Behavioral Health of PA to collect non-perishable food items to distribute to families in need. County Council and OBH have partnered with Magellan for 11 years to coordinate the food drive. Each year, more organizations join the drive, like ICH in 2011, helping to set new collection records. In 2012, the Office of Domestic Relations joined the county team, and helped propel the collection to an all-time record 14,242 pounds of food, all of which was quickly dispersed to needy families for holiday meals.
Providers involved with local food assistance programs continue to report an increasing demand for donations during these challenging economic times. Members of the public and local business community are invited to join county employees in placing donations in collection boxes, which are placed 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, Bill Chambers of OBH and Julie Brown of Magellan continue their traditional wager, which states that whoever collects the lesser amount of food must deliver their collected items wearing a large, colorful turkey costume. Magellan prevailed in 2012, and two county employees donned turkey costumes for the delivery. In 2013, the county team is determined to come out on top.
County Councilman Dave White announced the start of the 2013 Food Drive at the Sept. 25th County Council meeting, encouraging participation by employees, residents and merchants doing business at the Courthouse, Government Center and all designated County Offices.
“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,” said Councilman White, Council’s liaison to Human Services. “A lot of families continue to tighten their belts when it comes to food budgets. Those of us who are able need to extend a helping hand to those who are less fortunate.”
Sister Sandra Lyons of the Bernardine Center, one of five Chester food pantries associated with the DelCo Interfaith Food Assistance Network (DIFAN), said the number of families seeking food assistance continues to climb due to the weak economy.
“Many families struggle to keep food on the table due to under employment and low wages. Some people, able to squeeze by last year, have spent their ‘rainy day funds’ and have no safety net to fall back on,” Sister Sandra said. “That’s when they come to us for help. We see new families every day.”
Serving as the DIFAN director, Sister Sandra stated that in 2012-2013, DIFAN food pantries provided well over one million meals to Delaware County families, a significant increase in meals provided over the prior year.
“We are continuing to see double digit increases in the number of families seeking DIFAN food assistance,” she stated. “In many cases, the families coming to us are no longer just supplementing their limited food supply. We are finding that they have been cutting back on portions and even skipping meals to make ends meet. Now they are turning to us to help meet their family’s basic daily food needs.”
Already in 2013-2014, the trend of more families coming to DIFAN food centers is continuing. Unfortunately, this increase comes at a time when food assistance funds received by the county have been decreased. “Now more than ever, food drives like this are vital to help families to meet their basic needs,” Sister Sandra said. “Hopefully, more people will join the county’s drive and reach out to help their neighbors in need.”
Family and Community Service (FCS), located in Media, coordinates the county food assistance programs and oversees the volunteer network of DIFAN food centers located throughout the county. 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 how you can participate in the 2013 Annual Thanksgiving Food Drive, contact OBH at (610) 713-2365.