Industry, community organizations and educators come together at DelVal to fight hunger
Mar 24, 2014
When people think of Bucks County, “hunger” is not a term that often comes to mind, but about 10 percent of people in Bucks County experience food insecurity. The Doylestown Food Pantry alone serves about 100 families every week, who are coming because they have no other choice. One woman was walking an hour each way to the pantry to get food. A young man was taking microwavable food. He didn’t have a way to cook it, but found a 7/11 that would let him use a microwave.
“These are the realities,” said Barbara Harris, a Doylestown Food Pantry volunteer. “Do they have a can opener? A knife that’s strong enough to cut through the food? A way to cook?”
On March 21, in Delaware Valley College’s Student Center, community organizations and nonprofits, local politicians, residents, educators, students, and representatives from major food companies came together to fight hunger at The Hunger Nutrition Coalition of Bucks County’s 2014 Hunger Forum “In Our Backyard.”
“Government will never address the total need,” said Roger Collins, retired executive director of the Bucks County Opportunity Council. “There’s a role for community and for those who want to make a difference.”
At this year’s forum, two Delaware Valley College alumni made major announcements about grants that will support access to fresh, healthy food for people in need. Tom Wakefield '72, a DelVal alumnus who serves on the board of directors for Land O’Lakes, Inc., announced $75,000 in support from the Land O’Lakes Foundation for Hope of the Harvest, which will be distributed over three years. Hope of the Harvest is a partnership between DelVal, The Bucks County Opportunity Council, and Philabundance that uses college land to grow fresh, nutritious food for those who are slipping through the hunger safety net. As of October 2013, the project had produced 51,298 pounds of food for people in need since it was founded. That’s the equivalent of 39,460 meals. The long-term goal is to reach 100,000 pounds of production per year by 2017.
Wakefield said that fighting hunger is “a natural fit” for the company because food is what they do. He also said that Land O’Lakes works to get involved in the communities where its food is produced and that farms in Bucks County are producing for the company.
“To see Land O’Lakes step up was great,” said Russell Redding, DelVal’s dean of agriculture and environmental sciences. “It was Tom’s leadership and being able to carry that conversation about hunger into board rooms that helped make the case that the charitable garden is worth investing in.”
Wakefield also announced another surprise $25,000 grant from the Foundation to support Philabundance, the region’s largest hunger relief organization.
When President and CEO of the United Way of Bucks County, Jamie Haddon, a DelVal business alumnus, heard about the charitable garden, he approached the College to ask how he could help. At the forum, Redding announced that Haddon helped the College get a $24,000 commitment from the United Way to support the garden.
Redding closed the event by encouraging everyone present to do something about the issue.
“The answer to hunger in our community is in this room,” said Redding. “Hunger is silent, the people who are hungry often don’t have a voice…This event is really about coming together to decide what our vision is for our community and what this region should look like.”
DelVal’s founder Dr. Joseph Krauskopf helped people to lift themselves out of poverty by bringing low-income residents from cities out to the School and teaching them skills to feed themselves in a hands-on way.
Redding said that he felt that the College’s founder would be smiling if he could see the type of work happening on campus.
Applegate Organic & Natural Meats was this year’s forum sponsor.
On June 20, the College will host Bucks Knocks Out Hunger, a huge United Way event that brings the community together to pack meals for people in need.