The holidays are a special time for many of us — from gifts to gatherings, this time is made up of fond memories with our loved ones. It’s during this time that we often take a moment to reflect on all the things that we’re grateful for in our lives.
As you gather around the table with family and friends this holiday season, it’s important to give thanks for food — it nourishes and fuels our bodies.
Food Insecurity in Our Region
Unfortunately, there are many people in our region who aren’t sure where their next meal is coming from. According to a recent study by Hunger Free America, 18.3 percent of Philadelphia residents live in households that are considered food insecure, meaning that they don’t have enough food in the course of a year to lead a healthy lifestyle.
While nationwide food insecurity numbers have been decreasing, a recent report found that food insecurity has increased by 22 percent in Philadelphia.
“There are hundreds of thousands of people living below the poverty line and they’re facing hunger. Even more alarming, a large portion of these individuals are children,” said Erin Brookes, a project lead with the Blue Crew, our corporate volunteer program at Independence Blue Cross. “Turning the tide on food insecurity is essential to bettering the lives of the people in our entire region.”
How the Blue Crew Battles Hunger
Independence is committed to enhancing the health and well-being of the communities we serve, and that includes helping to fight food insecurity. Through the Blue Crew, Independence volunteers work with food banks and pantries, soup kitchens, and hunger relief organizations in the region to help ensure that people in our community have access to nutritious food.
“Volunteers sort donations as they come in and repack items so they may be sent into the community,” said James Hennessy, Blue Crew project lead for Philabundance. “We also ensure the quality of all produce and check expiration dates on perishables.”
“The Blue Crew helps with each step of the food pantry process,” said Jennifer Smith, Blue Crew project lead at the People’s Emergency Center. “We start by sorting and checking food, and then separate the food into bags. The next step is handing out the food. Lastly, we help clean up the space and put any of the remaining food back in the fridge.”
A Helping Hand
Volunteers are critical to helping get food and meals in the hands of families that need it the most.
“Share Food Program serves hundreds of thousands of low-income individuals in the region a month by delivering over 25 million pounds of food relief. They stream food to over 500 food cupboards throughout the region to distribute in their local communities,” said Erin, who leads the Blue Crew volunteer project at Share Food Program. “Without the countless volunteers at the warehouse every week, Share could not do a fraction of this meaningful and impactful work.”
Many of these organizations offer more than just food, they also provide dignity and comfort during a difficult time.
“The People’s Emergency Center has a powerful impact on food insecurity in the West Philadelphia community. It’s not only a place where people can come get food. They also offer a three-course meal and meaningful conversation while you wait,” said Jennifer. “They give you a safe place to come and receive help, without judgment.”
Join the Fight Against Hunger
During this season of gratitude, you can help spread some holiday cheer by giving back to those dealing with food insecurity. If you want to help fight hunger, consider donating or volunteering at any these local food banks and pantries, soup kitchens, or hunger relief organizations:
- Broad Street Ministry: A Christian non-profit organization dedicated to making a difference through civic engagement and hospitality.
- Cathedral Kitchen: The largest emergency food provider in Camden, New Jersey.
- Jewish Family and Children’s Service: A social service agency serving individuals, children, and seniors in the Greater Philadelphia area.
- Food Bank of South Jersey: A hunger relief organization serving South Jersey.
- Manna on Main Street: A food pantry and soup kitchen committed to ending hunger in the North Penn region.
- People’s Emergency Center: A comprehensive homeless services provider and experienced nonprofit community development agency based in West Philadelphia.
- Philabundance: The largest hunger relief organization in the Delaware Valley, and a member of Feeding America, a nationwide network of food banks leading the fight against hunger in the United States.
- Share Food Program: A non-profit organization serving a regional network of community organizations engaged in food distribution, education, and advocacy.
“These organizations fill a gap in our community, not just for the homeless, but also the working poor. The weight of worrying about where your next meal will come from can be overwhelming,” said James. “Nobody makes it through this world on their own, so I think that it’s important to do what we can to lift each other up.”