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Leading the fight against hunger.


Philabundance addresses food relief on many fronts, from distributing food to teaching skills for life transformation. ACME has supported this nonprofit through its GIVE BACK WHERE IT COUNTS Reusable Bag Program.

Tell us about Philabundance.

Philabundance was founded almost 40 years ago, in 1984, with the simple belief that no one should go hungry while healthy food goes to waste. Our founder saw good food going to waste, but people were still hungry. She started Philabundance out of the back of her Subaru by giving food out to community members, and it expanded from there.

We focus on providing emergency food to relieve hunger in five counties in Pennsylvania and four counties in New Jersey.

What services do you supply to the community?

We have a plethora of services and excellent programs around food relief.

There is our Philabundance Community Kitchen (PCK) program. It’s a 16-week life skills course for those with low-to-no income or who have recently been released from incarceration. The course is full of excellent food-based life skills. The first eight weeks are filled with learning objectives like how to use a knife properly and prep meals. Then, the last eight weeks are set up like an internship. The students are placed in a restaurant to work. Most of them get job placements after the 16-week course. Throughout the course, we also help with resume skills and interviewing, and we stay with these students for two years afterward. Our team checks in with the PCK program participants to say hi and see if they need help with anything, like updating resumes or finding a new job. It is essential to keep them in the loop of things to ensure success for all.

Then we have our LunchBox program, which is specifically for children. Schools usually provide two meals for their students–breakfast and lunch–during the school year. In the summer, low-income families may need help determining when their next meal will be. The LunchBox program provides free and nutritious ready-to-eat lunches for kids to reduce the number of missed meals during the summer when kids do not have access to school meals.

Another meal kit program Philabundance provided last year was the Let’s Eat meal program. This program also ran during the summer months to ensure children were getting the necessary food while not in school. We were able to distribute 16,000 nutritious meal kits to our nine-county community. That’s a total of 128,000 individual meals provided to families who otherwise may not have had wholesome lunches or dinners during the week.

What sets you apart from other nonprofits in your community?

Philabundance is a relatively large hunger relief organization. We feed roughly 135,000 people weekly and distribute 400,000 ready-to-eat meals to our 600 community agencies.

We’re not just distributing the food to everyone; we’re also teaching life skills…

The PCK program sets us apart. We’re not just distributing the food to everyone; we’re also teaching life skills to bridge that gap between needing food and a job. Life is like an onion; every problem is a layer of that onion. You might be able to deal with one layer, but there are so many layers underneath it. The PCK program helps provide for several layers at once.

Please tell us a story about your organization that clearly illustrates your good work.

We feed children through our school programs, and we go all the way up to seniors with our meal boxes. It’s the in-between ages, young adults and college students, who are juggling a lot because they’re dealing with student debt, student loans and housing.

They’re usually a missed population because we don’t always realize that the ‘poor starving college student’ is real. We’ve had students tell us stories and report that they’ve been utilizing our food pantries, which are located at different colleges throughout Philadelphia. Getting into college is an accomplishment in itself, but staying is hard. Something like being unable to feed yourself could end your education.

One great thing about all our pantries is that they provide produce, proteins and non-perishables; it is always a well-balanced diet. Philabundance is proud, knowing that people of any age can go to a food pantry and get the necessary things to focus on their schoolwork or job. Food is the baseline of necessity.

What is your most outstanding achievement or contribution to the community?

While good food goes to waste, Philabundance is trying to bridge that gap. We get food from the port, grocery stores, donations and community members, and that help allows us to feed our counties in need.

While trying to drive hunger out through our pantries, the PCK Program helps create a lifelong solution. Allowing people to learn to cook as a career and then providing job placement is a unique aspect of our approach to hunger relief. At the end of last year, we had our 89th graduation from the PCK program, and we started it in 2000. It’s impressive to see that there are different ways of going about food insecurity. Our goal is to have no food go to waste and no person goes hungry.

What is the most important thing you want people to know about Philabundance?

Philabundance dives deep into food insecurity and the lack of nutritious food resources. These issues can be found in every single zip code throughout the nation. It’s not just the major cities.

These issues can be found in every single zip code throughout the nation.

There are more people affected by food insecurity than ever. We are deeply challenged because of the post-pandemic and inflation problems that have become a massive cause of the rise of food costs.

How are you using the funds you’ve received from the ACME GIVE BACK WHERE IT COUNTS Reusable Bag Program?

The contributions from the ACME GIVE BACK WHERE IT COUNTS Reusable Bag Program go specifically to helping support the cost associated with Philabundance’s hunger relief operations, such as our weekly food distributions throughout the nine counties.

Also, these funds help support our children’s hunger relief programs, our meal delivery programs for seniors and our job training. We are so happy to participate in ACME’s GIVE BACK Bag program. The funds really make a difference toward our goal of absolute hunger relief.

Helena Zrile is Corporate and Community Fundraising Coordinator for Philabundance.

Published February 28, 2023.