Delaware Valley residents seek food from Philabundance

By Mallory Terrence
September 11, 2008

photos by Mallory Terrence

As the global economy continues to spiral downward, the cost of food around the world is rising. Even Americans are being forced to tighten their food budgets, causing some to cut essential items from their diet.

To help some in need, since July 16, every Tuesday afternoon the Grandmarket Place in Willingboro, N.J. is home to Philabundance’s new direct food program, Fresh For All. Community members come each week to lighten some of their weekly expenses with free food.

The 87-degree weather on a recent Tuesday did not stop the hundreds of people who lined up on the blacktop of The Grandmarket Place parking lot to receive fresh produce free of cost.

“I really don’t have the money to buy much of this food and that’s why I come out each week. I take everything they have to offer,” Richard Urban, a Willingboro resident, said.

As producers and transporters need to pay more to produce and ship their products, prices continue to rise for consumers. The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Aug. 20 said food prices are rising faster than anytime since May 1991.

In 2008, the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for all food is projected to increase 5.0 to 6.0 percent. The fresh fruit index is currently up 8.4 percent overall from last year at this time, with apple prices up 12.7 percent and banana prices up 20 percent.

Fresh For All began in December 2007 and has seen overwhelming numbers of people coming for food in recent months. The program offers free fresh fruits and vegetables to those in need.

There are five sites throughout the 10 New Jersey and Eastern

Pennsylvania counties that Philadundance serves. The newest site, located in Willingboro, N.J., has proven to be a huge success.

“In the beginning we were definitely not prepared,” Kelly Hile, Fresh For All program manager, said. The first week is generally slow but Willingboro’s first day had the largest turnout to date, serving 230 households.

“It confirmed we were putting a site in an area that needed it,” Hile said.

Philabundance estimates 900,000 people in the Delaware Valley may need help with food. This number encompasses not only the poor but also the lower-middle class who are stretching their dollars as far as they can.

“I can only afford what’s in my budget so coming here makes it easier to get other things that my family would need, and I don’t want to cut fruits and vegetables out because of the nutritional value,” Amanda Mitchell, a Willingboro resident, said.

According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and his family, including food.

Kristen Nicely-Colangelo, assistant professor of social work, said that everyday Americans are being denied this basic human right because they are struggling to provide food for their families.

“Working families are not surviving. People are having to chose between healthy food and gas,” Nicely-Colangelo said.

With the rising cost of food, Morris explained how she has to choose either filling medications or buying fruits. Fresh For All gives her the opportunity to have both.

“The government don’t want to give you nothing. People are poor so they come here to stand in line to get what they can for free,” Georgana Morris, 66, of Willingboro, N.J., said.

As of July 28, Fresh For All had distributed more than 340,000 pounds of food.

“The economy plays into the large amount of people that show up each week, but people are always going to have life circumstances, and we are a safe food net,” Hile said.

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Mallory Terrence

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