Melanie Cataldi, Chief Impact Officer for Philabundance, discussed hunger in the Delaware Valley. Philadelphia, poorer than any other major East Coast city with a 26% poverty rate, and with one of the oldest populations, has seen hunger and food insecurity increase as it drops in the rest of the country. One in five suffer from food insecurity here against one in eight nationally. She discussed inter-generational hunger, health as well as wealth are not being passed down from struggling parents, many families are working but underemployed and one paycheck away from hunger. 400,000 kids will lose their breakfast and/or lunch meals when they leave school for the summer.
Philabundance is the regions largest food rescuer and distributor, supplying the food panties and shelters of nine local counties. Because food relief today does not prevent hunger tomorrow, Philabundance has begun a pilot program, ‘Ending Hunger for Good.’ With research showing that as little at $250 in reserve cash can prevent a family financial disaster Philabundance is working with Habitat for Humanity, a ‘connector’ who connects clients with food today and tools to help them get off the line tomorrow. Clients enrolled in the current pilot are given financial literacy skills and help to develop a six week saving plan to create a reserve for emergencies that can break their financial security. Philabundance is now looking for businesses and other service providers to become new connectors, each offering education, health services, housing or job assistance, each a unique program but offering services and support for the total campaign.
Ms Cataldi discussed Philabundance’s prior experience in making families food stable, including their Community Kitchen, a job training program for low or no income individuals. The 14 week program offers graduates a steady employment history, knife and prep skills and the all-important Safe Serve Certification, a requirement for every food related business. Participants, many of whom are re-entry following incarceration, spend two weeks on a job as part of their program, many stay after receiving their certificate. The program boasts a 75% employment rate at graduate, 70% two years after graduation.
Ms Cataldi assured us that they will continue to feed the hungry, from support to area shelters to their fifteen ‘Fresh for All’ fresh produce distribution sites and other direct relief programs, they are limited only by the cash and food contributions for their work. Businesses who would like to participate in the Community Kitchen programs, companies or individuals who want to make donations or volunteer, can reach out to Philabundance at philabundance.org. Agencies or businesses who are interested in becoming ‘connectors’ can contact Ms Cataldi direct at email@example.com.