Hunger in Philadelphia: forgotten after holidays

By Mallory Terrence
January 31, 2008

mallory terrence
staff writer

meghan smith
staff writer

Imagine having four children and only one can of beans to feed them for dinner. This is a reality faced by people living in the Philadelphia area who are not able to make a dollar stretch far enough to feed their families. One in four Philadelphians lives in poverty, meaning a family of four makes less than $20,000.

While the holiday season is a time of joy and celebration for many, for the 25 percent of Philadelphians living below the poverty line, the holidays can be a burden, struggling to put food on the table and gifts under the tree.

Students at Cabrini and in schools and churches across the country are very generous at Christmastime. But after the holidays, people sometimes forget about giving food to those who are hungry.

“It’s difficult to care when it is not the holidays,” Shannon Keough, event coordinator of Poverty Awareness Month, said.

One who does not forget about the hungry is Kevin Murphy, a sophomore at LaSalle University. He has been volunteering in the Philadelphia area all year round for the last six years. Murphy is a dedicated volunteer who would rather spend his time helping the less fortunate instead of playing sports with his friends.

Murphy met a 42-year-old man named Mike whose life as a husband and father turned into one of addiction and alcoholism. After four months of complete sobriety, Mike fell back into his addictions following an open-heart operation that saved his life.

For years Murphy has assisted at a soup kitchen in the Kensington section of Philadelphia and recently joined forces with an organization located at 802 North Broad St. This organization runs homeless outreaches and provides services to help people get off the streets, but the one thing they cannot do is provide food.

“Usually there is an increase in donations between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Yet this year things have been tight all around, making donations harder to come by,” Carey Morgan, director of the Greater Philadelphia Coalition Against Hunger, said.

Organizations such as the Greater Philadelphia Coalition Against Hunger and Philabundance work to ensure that healthy meals are readily available to Philadelphians in need of assistance. The success of these organizations is dependent upon the generosity from members of the community.

Touched by Mike’s story, Murphy directed him towards 802’s counseling services where is he now taking small steps to get off the streets.

“Encounters like this make me keep coming back because I feel as though I am making a difference in someone’s life,” Murphy said.

The St. Vincent de Paul Society of Upper Darby, a borough food bank, had to close their doors for a week right before Thanksgiving because the group ran out of food.

“We have a large volunteer body primarily made up of students, and we are always on the look out for more,” Morgan said.

“Cabrini has partnerships with various food banks and shelters throughout the Philadelphia area and are always ready to reach the needs of the community,” Christa Angeloni, campus minister, said. The Wolfington Center holds its annual food drive in November.

This year the Wolfington Center dedicated one month to poverty awareness, whereas next year Keough and sophomore Elizabeth Briggs plan to have events to occur once a month.

“We felt empty because we wanted to give more throughout the year,” Keough said.

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Mallory Terrence

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