Hunger heroes are always wanted at West Chester Food Cupboard.
During this year's COVID-19 sheltering in place and challenging workforce issues, having such a community food beacon has been a lifeline to many. The organizers of this local cupboard want everyone who would like food assistance to know that shopping there is safe, easy and friendly.
History of The Cupboard
The West Chester Food Cupboard was created in 2009 when the Chester County Cares Food Cupboard closed. Dismayed volunteers banded together and stepped up to the challenge to operate a new food cupboard themselves. By 2012, the new set of community leaders succeeded in forming their own non-profit 501(c)(3) organization.
Fiona Allison, West Chester Food Cupboard board of directors secretary, says the number of volunteers and donations then increased, as residents and business owners responded generously to the needs of low-income West Chester neighbors, who were struggling to feed themselves and their families.
During the summer of 2017, Fiona says the group had outgrown the former premises on E. Gay Street, and the volunteers decided to move. They were lucky enough to find 431 S. Bolmar Street – a location with twice the space, and what they said they believed would be a wonderfully welcoming place for clients to shop.
The Cupboard is still 100% volunteer run with no paid staff, affirms Fiona. Currently there is a seven-person board of directors, a lead volunteer team of 14, and more than 150 volunteers, who willingly carry out a myriad of tasks.
Securing Food To Counteract Food Insecurity
Food items issued by the Cupboard are 50% purchased and 50% donated. Every donation directly supports the goal of achieving food security in the community. Board members assure they are an equal opportunity provider, and that they welcome clients and volunteers from all walks of life. They provide fresh produce, dairy, and meats in addition to non-perishables and basic personal care items, with clients choosing which items their family needs.
Approximately $750,000 gets donated to the Cupboard in a typical year. "Because we have no paid staff, 98.5% of our expenses is related to our programs, such as food purchases, rent and utilities. Only 0.3% is spent on management and admin expenses, and 1.2% on fundraising," says Joe Fratinardo, president of the West Chester Food Cupboard.
He says cash donations to the group come from four main sources: individuals (35%), grants (30%), non-profit organizations (25%) and businesses (10%).
"Approximately 75% of our food donations come from the Chester County Food Bank and 10 local businesses that sell food. The remaining 25% comes primarily from a variety of individuals, nonprofit organizations and businesses," says Joe. "We're so grateful for the incredible support of the community. We couldn't help those in need without them.
There's activity at the cupboard six days a week, and Joe says the volunteers coordinate receiving and distributing more than 20,000 pounds of food a week.
Volunteers are provided an overall orientation and are also provided training depending on the role they are performing. Approximately 20 of the Cupboard's 150 volunteers have very defined management roles, such as treasury, bookkeeping, fundraising, outreach, purchasing, logistics, shift leads, and other back office functions, affirms Joe. The remainder of their volunteers perform many tasks, including serving clients, stocking shelves, unloading deliveries, repackaging items from bulk quantities, cleaning the facility, or becoming drivers to pick up donated and purchased food.
Anyone interested in volunteering can email email@example.com.
Joe says many of the group's volunteers are older than 60, or have conditions that don't allow them to volunteer during this year's COVID-19 pandemic. "We work each day with limited crews to try and maintain social distancing," he adds.
They also wear gloves and masks for all functions, and everyone’s temperature is taken when they arrive. "Keeping everyone safe is very important," confirms Joe.
He says purchasing food has required more effort, due to disruptions in the supply chain but that they've been able to maintain a good food supply to meet their clients’ needs
"Before the pandemic, clients were able enter the facility and shop for their needs. Since the pandemic, clients no longer enter the facility and shop. However, we have set up a drive-through where each family receives a pre-selected variety of foods that include dairy, meats, fresh produce, nonperishables and personal care items. Our volunteers bring full carts of groceries outside the facility and load them in our client’s cars. There is minimal interaction between clients and volunteers in an effort to keep everyone safe," says Joe.
He says the new system requires more preparation to have carts ready for the three days a week they serve clients.
HOURS OF CUPBOARD OPERATION:
TUESDAYS, los martes 8:30-11:30 a.m.
THURSDAYS, los jueves 8:30-11:30 a.m.
SATURDAYS, los sábados 8:30-11:30 a.m.
431 South Bolmar St., West Chester
"Our donors and volunteers are all neighbors caring for neighbors." — Joseph Fratinardo, West Chester Food Cupboard president
“One person can make a difference, and everyone should try.” — John F. Kennedy