PHILADELPHIA (CBS) –– The numbers are striking. One in five people in the Philadelphia area does not know where his or her next meal is coming from, according to a new report by Feeding America. The national number is one in eight.
Philly is especially struggling, but there’s hope. A new program by Philabundance started in September to help a group of people who often put everyone else first.
Deborah Ezelle has come to rely on a box of food delivered to her senior housing community in Germantown every month. The USDA-donated box supplements her pantry and helps feed her children and their children.
She knows how important the supplies are.
“Wouldn’t know what to do without them,” Ezelle says. “They are an essential part of our senior living.”
But the need is so great, there’s a waitlist for the government box.
Philabundance is now stepping in with a new program called PantryBoxes.
Through a grant from the W.W. Smith Charitable Trust, 625 additional eligible seniors in Philly and Delaware County will now get a 15-pound box of shelf-safe food once a month.
Philabundance says the program helps a particularly vulnerable group of people.
“Trying to pay for bills, medical expenses, prescriptions, food is one of the last things that seniors end up paying for when they have to stretch their budgets,” Stefanie Arck-Baynes of Philabundance says.
But the grant for PantryBoxes only covers six months. And while the pilot program is getting rave reviews, more generous donors are needed to keep the program going. Not only that, even with the additional food boxes, there’s still a waitlist of people in need.
“It goes to show that it’s really helping fill that gap,” Arck-Baynes says. “But there’s still a much larger need than there is supply at the moment.”
As for Ezelle, she shows her gratitude by volunteering. She organizes and hands out the PantryBoxes at Anchor of Hope, the agency that distributes the boxes at her senior community in Germantown.
“It’s rewarding to give back to the community,” Ezelle says. “This is why I volunteer.”
September is also Hunger Action Month.
Philabundance is trying to raise $25,000 to provide 50,000 meals for those in need in our area.
To donate, visit philabundance.org.