Philly food bank hits lull in donations

05/05/2008 12:00:00 AM
Doug Ohlemeier


In December, hunger relief agency Philabundance introduced Fresh for All, a program to put produce directly into the hands of people in need. The program has several pilot sites so far, including this one (above) in Woodlyn, Pa.

(May 5, 4:11 p.m.) A Philadelphia food bank that focuses on perishables has been experiencing difficulty sourcing enough fresh produce to distribute to needy people.

Philabundance, the largest hunger relief agency in southeast Pennsylvania and southwest New Jersey, used to receive large truckloads carrying multiple skids of produce.

Because of the weakened economy, the perishable food recovery organization has experienced fresh produce shortfalls, said Marlo DelSordo, communications manager.

“We are finding now that we’re having a produce shortage,” she said. “We’re not getting in the produce we really need. With the economy the way it is, the need for food in the community is continuing to grow.”

The lull in contributions comes after the organization launched a program to distribute fresh produce to Philadelphia-area needy.

In December, the organization introduced its Fresh for All program to put produce directly into the hands of people in need. The program delivers fresh quality fruit and vegetables to people living in areas that have limited access to produce.

The Fresh for All program allows people in lower-income areas to collect five pounds of fresh produce for free at the same time every week.

DelSordo said the program has proved highly popular. The organization, which provides perishables to 600 member agencies in 10 Pennsylvania and New Jersey counties, has seen people favorably respond and return for food every week, DelSordo said.

“With budgets so tight, and with the soaring costs of produce, people are cutting them (fruit and vegetables) from their budgets. That’s the first thing that goes,” DelSordo said. “We’re trying to make sure people still get to eat fruits and vegetables in their diets.”

David Levin, co-owner of M. Levin & Co. Inc., a produce wholesaler that has locations on and off the Philadelphia Regional Produce Market, regularly contributes to the cause.

Levin acknowledges the challenges Philabundance faces in collecting produce.

“Produce has been so high lately,” Levin said. “Everyone is trying to keep a controllable amount of volume, not to have that little bit of extra. Philabundance does a very good job for the needy in this city. They’re willing to take it, break it down, put it on their trucks and distribute to I don’t know how many different areas. That in itself, you couldn’t make a profit if you were trying to do it.”

Philabundance recently opened four Fresh for All pilot sites in Camden County, Pa., Delaware County, Pa., Salem County, N.J. and Burlington County, N.J. Philabundance plans to open another site by the end of spring.

The Fresh for All program is Philabundance’s first effort to deliver food directly to people.

While most food banks deal in nonperishables, Philabundance began collecting leftover restaurant foods to donate to shelters in 1984.

Philabundance receives regular produce donations from Philadelphia produce terminal distributors.

The food recovery organization has a children’s hunger initiative, which tries to fight childhood hunger through providing higher nutrition food. The program delivers fresh fruit, vegetables, bread, milk, heat and serve meals and snacks to low-income parents and their children.

Procacci Bros. Sales Corp., Al Finer Co., Pinto Bros. Inc., T.M. Kovacevich Philadelphia Inc., Hunter Bros. Inc., G&G Produce and Nardella Inc. have been among the biggest contributors to the program, DelSordo said.



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