The pandemic upended jobs, housing and a whole economic system.
Nationally meals insecurity spiked, and Philadelphia has not escaped that affect. In 2021, practically 29% of Philadelphians are estimated to have confronted meals insecurity, a fee that grew by a fifth from 2018, according to Feeding America. That’s almost double the nationwide common.
In response, Episcopal Community Services (ECS) and its companions have prioritized meals accessibility with its expanded group cabinet and programming. One of many communities that ECS serves is Carroll Park, a neighborhood in West Philadelphia that the 91-year-old nonprofit has served for greater than 20 years. Initially constructed as a shelter for households experiencing homelessness, its St. Barnabas Mission facility has reworked right into a group heart.
“Our outreach actions have fed households within the neighborhood for 10 years, the place meals insecurity is one concern that we hear about most,” says Rhena McClain, director of St. Barnabas Mission. “There was a dramatic improve within the variety of folks looking for emergency meals over the previous a number of years—and the pandemic has solely heightened the problem of assembly their fundamental want of accessing meals, not to mention wholesome meals.”
When St. Barnabas operated as an emergency shelter, defending the confidentiality and security of its residents was a precedence. “We’re now capable of welcome extra neighbors and turn into extra engaged with the group,” she provides.
In recent times, the nation’s major normal of take care of households experiencing homelessness has modified from a system of congregant shelters like St. Barnabas Mission to considered one of shifting households immediately into their very own properties. Sustaining its dedication to offer secure housing, ECS tripled the variety of items in its Speedy Re-Housing applications–now sustaining 60 secure properties for households experiencing homelessness.
Nonetheless, in Carroll Park, ECS collected suggestions from the neighborhood by way of city hall-style conferences—in-person and digital—to listen to immediately from the supply what they mentioned the realm wanted. Mushy-launched in April 2021, Mission Meals + Market at St. Barnabas Mission supplies the next initiatives, with plans for continued development and extra programming.
Neighborhood Meals Cabinet
ECS with Philabundance has prolonged its Neighborhood Meals Cabinet hours and practically doubled the variety of households it helps. Beforehand, pre-packaged meal kits had been supplied, however now with open doorways, neighbors choose their very own groceries, taking solely what they need and wish in an open-choice market, very like a grocery retailer. Filling the cabinets are recent fruit and greens, meats, non-perishable canned items, well being and hygiene gadgets, and cleansing provides. The open selection mannequin not solely creates a extra respectful area but in addition reduces waste.
Diet Schooling + Workshops
All ECS well being and wellness programming and lessons have moved to St. Barnabas Mission. Neighbors who fill their fridges and pantries can even refill on data that helps wholesome consuming, cooking, and purchasing. Courses embrace SNAP Schooling and Feed Your Potential 365 in partnership with the Well being Promotion Council, Aramark, and the American Coronary heart Affiliation, respectively.
Neighborhood Prepare dinner-Off
An already-popular volunteer exercise, Prepare dinner-Off is growing its outcomes by providing extra alternatives for volunteers to arrange meals for seniors experiencing meals insecurity. Volunteers will collect weekly to assemble practically 1,000 nutritious meals within the facility’s industrial kitchen. The cooking is completed by cooks on employees, then plated and packaged by volunteers. ECS then delivers the meals to 4 native senior dwelling facilities.
Pamela Egleston, director of well being and wellness programming, sees the numerous alternatives to construct a more healthy group by way of extra focused outreach. Beforehand, ECS’ well being schooling and workshops can be hosted at group facilities for short-term cohorts.
“By having a relentless presence, we hope to retain extra households who will come again time and again for interactive workshops, join with their neighbors, and preserve wholesome habits–that, as everyone knows, are simple to interrupt,” Egleston says. “And you’ll by no means be taught an excessive amount of.”
McClain, a West Philly native, sees how scarce wholesome meals choices are in low-income communities, together with this neighborhood she loves.
“I’ve been in West Philly my complete life. And I do know the space I drive from my residence to St. Barnabas … you simply don’t see loads of locations for meals. You see comfort shops and nook shops, however not locations to choose up the recent meals you should cook dinner for your loved ones,” she says.
And these communities usually tend to need to cope with extra boundaries already, like an absence of simple transportation, much less cash or irregular revenue to spend, and well being circumstances or residence obligations making time-consuming, far-by-foot journey an impediment.
“Merely put, high quality meals is out of attain by design in neighborhoods like this,” McClain provides, however with optimism to vary that. “There’s the saying ‘give a person a fish and also you feed him for a day; educate a person to fish and also you feed him for a lifetime.’ However what occurs when there aren’t any fish within the pond?”
Simply as St. Barnabas was a beacon of hope for households experiencing homelessness, ECS’ purpose is to be sure that this new use of the area will assist it stay a hopeful one–one which continues to assist households on this neighborhood and past.
In-kind donations are essential to the success of Mission Meals + Market, particularly the open-choice Neighborhood Meals Cabinet. If you want to assist fill the cabinets, please electronic mail email@example.com or name 215.528.5407. Beneficiant assist from folks such as you makes all of the distinction.