PHILADELPHIA — In normal times, low-income seniors can stop by their local state lawmaker’s office and pick up food courtesy of the nonprofit Share Food program.
In the extraordinary times we now live in, those local officials now stop by the homes of in-need seniors.
State Rep. Elizabeth Fiedler, a Democrat who represents South Philadelphia’s 184th House District participated in one of these excursions last weekend. The experience was heartening for the 15 volunteers and 150 seniors.
“Right now I’m working from home exclusively and this was one of the few times I’ve been in a space with other people in over a week,” Fiedler told the Capital-Star. “We still were wearing gloves and masks and following all the safety recommendations, but it was remarkable to be there.”
Each volunteer left a package on the front step of ten low-income seniors.
“I know a lot of these seniors,” Fiedler continued. “I’ve met almost every single one. Folks count on this food, they scrape by just to make it to this day. People really, really appreciated it and told us ‘Thank you for not forgetting about us’.”
These boxes are distributed as part of the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP) or “Senior Box” program.
Each box contains eight cans of vegetables, three cans of fruit, a juice, 32 ounces of milk, a cereal, a carbohydrate as well as meat and plant based proteins.
Share Food’s CSFP Program Manager John Sudolsky explained how the Coronavirus pandemic has affected their work.
“With the virus so present now, a lot of locations are ceasing they’re day-to-day operations,” he told the Capital-Star. “We have connections within the community to try and recruit volunteers to be drivers. Between four counties, we feed about 6,600 folks per month. We had a successful round with Rep. Fiedler, those folks got so much needed nourishment there and we’re really trying to do that wherever it’s needed.”
They cover Bucks, Chester, Montgomery and Philadelphia counties. As would be expected, the last month has posed an incredible challenge.
“It’s just been crazy,” Sudolsky said. “For example, the last two weeks we’ve rented multiple trucks. A few months ago we had four or five trucks, now we have eight trucks or more now. We’re also spearheading the city’s initiative to provide food boxes to ‘super sites’ throughout the city. We’re working out of a warehouse in partnership with the city and Philabundance to get these boxes out into these locations and get that necessary food into those communities. Over the period of two weeks, we’ve just experienced insane growth.”
Such trying times can clarify just how truly important programs like this are.
“We’re called an emergency food organization for a reason. We’re really all learning what that means: Hunger doesn’t rest.”
To best illustrate the effort everyone in the organization is currently putting in, Sudolsky pointed to a meme he’d seen online which stated, “I’ve lived through five decades now: 90s, 00s, 10s, 20s and March.”
Correspondent Nick Field covers Philadelphia and its suburbs for the Capital-Star. Follow him on Twitter @Nick_Field90.