Philabundance Awarded Major Funding from Robert Wood Johnson to Improve Food Access in Chester
New non-profit retail model will address food access inequality
Philadelphia, Pa. - November 15, 2011- The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation awarded a $1 million grant to Philabundance, the largest hunger relief organization in the Delaware Valley to support and improve the hunger relief system. The majority of the grant will be applied to a new community food center Philabundance plans to open in the City of Chester, Delaware County. The food center will address food access inequality and provide Chester residents with access to food staples on a regular and reliable basis while giving customers a not-for-profit retail shopping experience.
The City of Chester has been without a grocery store for more than 10 years. Philabundance’s community food center will address food access inequality by delivering reliable access to food staples, including fresh produce, through a non-profit retail shopping experience. The food center will offer the lowest prices possible as well as some food free of charge. The food center will accept SNAP benefits and offer SNAP outreach as a resource to the community. This model promotes food equality by offering a full range of food products at one convenient location while stretching the customer’s dollar. Residents will not need to leave the city limits for nutritious foods. Philabundance hopes to replicate this model in other communities in the Delaware Valley.
Chester is one of the 35 food deserts in the Delaware Valley according to the USDA’s food desert locator. Mari Gallagher of MG Research defines a food desert as a large, contiguous area with poor access to mainstream grocers. The City of Chester is also part of Pennsylvania’s First Congressional District, the fourth hungriest district in the United States according to the Food Research and Action Center’s 2011, Food Insecurity Survey. In July of 2010, Philabundance surveyed 398 individuals, modeled after the USDA Food Security survey, and found 54 percent of Chester residents stated it was too far to travel for nutritious foods. More than half of Chester residents live at 200% of the poverty line according to the American Community Survey, 2008-2010 estimates.
“Robert Wood Johnson awarded Philabundance with a $1 million grant to support and improve the hunger relief system in the Delaware Valley because we have great confidence in the organization’s ability to effectively address food insecurity,” said Susan Mende, program officer for Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. “The food center project in Chester is an innovative and systemic model to improve food access in a community that has experienced food inequality for far too long.”
“Everyone has a basic right to have access to dependable, affordable food staples without having to travel too far to get them,” said Bill Clark, president and executive director of Philabundance. “The increasing need and decreasing food donations demonstrates that we can’t solely focus on emergency food assistance. The food center is a new model that will provide reliable access to food every day. Philabundance is thrilled that the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation sees the value in this project and awarded generous support to help fund the initiative.”
In the last few years the classic food banking model that was relying on donated food is becoming less practical as the need for assistance increases and the food donations decrease. Food banks across the country have begun searching for new methods to fight the mounting need with less food. The food center model is a new solution to attack hunger and address the inequality in food access that is growing.
The food center project requires $4.5 million to open. Philabundance is under contract for a building located in the West end of Chester, a convenient spot for many residents and close to public transportation. Philabundance will renovate the vacant portion of the building and create 20-25 new jobs in Chester and hire from the community whenever possible. The Food Center will be 13,000 sq. ft. with 8,300 sq. ft. will be used as space for the sales floor. The store will be clean, well-lit, attractive, convenient and friendly. Philabundance will be working with community groups and social service organizations to provide services that are needed by the community.
Philabundance has been serving the residents of Chester for more than 20 years and provides food to 12 member agencies in the city, 10 of which are food pantries. The food center will be a supplement to the agencies that already help those in need of food assistance. The food pantries that help make up the hunger safety net of agencies need more support to combat the rising numbers of people in need. Agency capacity building is a top priority for Philabundance, to help strengthen the hunger safety net by providing more resources to its network. In addition to $800,000 for the food center, The Robert Wood Johnson grant includes $100,000 which will be used by Philabundance to help our network agencies expand their distribution and the amount of food they can distribute into the community. The last $100,000 will be used for Philabundance’s general operating costs.
For more information on the project, please visit www.philabundance.org/chesterfoodaccess or call Marianne Lynch at 215-339-0900 x1102.