• Ralph Thurman

6 of the Innovative Ways Philadelphia’s Largest Food Bank Is Fighting Food Insecurity

Established in 1986, Share Food Program has been a leader in the fight against food insecurity in Philadelphia for over 35 years. This program was initially a food co-op for communities that lacked access to affordable food in the city. In 1991, Share became a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization with the mission of distributing food across Philly and the surrounding area.

Today, the Share Food Program is the largest hunger-relief organization in the Philadelphia area and one of the largest independent food banks in the United States. Here are six of the ways this organization is leading the fight against food insecurity in the City of Brotherly Love.

1. Partnerships with Local Organizations

Share’s approach to fighting food insecurity relies heavily on collaboration with like-minded local organizations, including non-profits, community-based organizations, and public sector agencies. Share has been named Philadelphia’s managing agency for the State Food Purchase Program and also partners with the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture on the Temporary Emergency Food Assistance Program.

The organization has also partnered with several community organizations for its Urban Agriculture program. The Philadelphia Horticulture Society provides greenhouse space, equipment, and planting materials for this program. Volunteers from the Philadelphia Orchard Project planted and continue to tend fruit-bearing trees.

Share’s warehouse is also home to several beehives thanks to the Philadelphia Bee Project, while a stormwater collection program has gathered rainwater to use for irrigation. This warehouse is a major fixture in the community and has been made possible through partnerships with Philly Food Works, Weavers Way food Co-op, and Bennett Composting.

Through a partnership with the School District of Philadelphia, Share has increased access to fresh produce and Share Food Packages for both parents and students. This program began last school year at one school, expanded to six public schools this year, and will expand to a total of 15 schools next year.

2. Philly Food Rescue

Philly Food Rescue became part of the Share Food Program family in July 2021. PFR is one of the region’s largest food rescue organizations. It works to prevent fresh, perishable food from going to waste.

The organization donates the rescued food to Philadelphia communities and organizations, allowing this surplus to be used in meals the same day. The partnership between Share and PFR has allowed both organizations to more effectively fight food insecurity in the Philadelphia area.

3. Emergency Food Relief

While food insecurity was a dire issue in Philadelphia before the pandemic, COVID-19 has exacerbated the problem. Adults have been laid off from their jobs and kids have lost access to school-provided meals during remote learning.

Share Food Program has consistently provided emergency relief throughout the organization’s history. During the pandemic, Share increased its impact by donating over 4 million pounds of food each month since the beginning of the pandemic.

4. Nice Roots Farm

The Share Food Program owns and operates Nice Roots Farm, where it cultivates fresh vegetables and fruits that are later donated to communities, food pantries, farmer’s markets, and mutual aid networks throughout the Philadelphia region. This farm has been in operation since 2009 and is located in the West Allegheny section of North Philadelphia.

5. Montco Hunger Solutions

Share Food Program’s impact extends well beyond the city limits of Philadelphia, with a special focus on Montgomery County. The MontCo branch of the program distributes emergency food supplies to over 60 regional partner agencies, such as food pantries, soup kitchens, senior living facilities, shelters, and social service programs. MontCo Hunger Solutions is also the main sponsor of the Norristown Farmer’s Market and Advocates Against Hunger.

6. Senior Food Box Program

The Senior Food Box Program (SFBP) is available to qualifying seniors in Philadelphia, Montgomery, and Chester counties. Program participants receive delivered food boxes and have the option to pick up the box themselves at participating providers.

Those who qualify for the program may receive one food box each month. Applicants must be at least 60 years old and must have an income that is below 130 percent of the poverty line. Boxes contain healthy foods like fruits, vegetables, juices, dairy products, meat, poultry, fish, plant-based proteins, pasta, rice, and cereals.

How to Get Involved With the Share Food Program

The Share Food Program is always looking for volunteers, who can help the organization in several different ways:

Packing

Volunteers can sign up to sort and pack food boxes at the Share warehouse, which will be distributed through the Senior Program. Additionally, volunteers can load cars for Saturday morning home deliveries.

Calling

Share relies on volunteers to make calls to confirm deliveries to program beneficiaries.

Driving

Volunteer drivers help deliver food boxes to seniors and others who are unable to leave their homes for food.

Farming

Nice Roots Farm relies on volunteer labor to help cultivate and harvest over 2,000 pounds of vegetables and herbs each year.

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