By Michelle Durham

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A local organization working with Philadelphia’s poor is in the middle of a massive food collection effort driven by social media.

Bebashi — Transition to Hope was formed in 1985 to serve the growing number of African-Americans in Philadelphia infected with HIV or AIDS, but it has grown to develop programs serving the area poor.

(Gary Bell.  Photo provided)

(Gary Bell. Photo provided)

“For every person that ‘likes’ our Fresh Grocer Facebook food page, Fresh Grocer will give us a free food item,” explains Bebashi executive director Gary Bell (right).  “So all we need people to do is to ‘like’ the page and Fresh Grocer will give us free food.”

You can also drop food items into the Bebashi bins at all five Fresh Grocer locations in Philadelphia (see list), or at Bebashi headquarters, 1217 Spring Garden Street.

Philadelphia has one of the highest rates of poverty among America’s major cities, and one of the highest rates of “food insecurity” among its residents.

Bell says a variety of factors are causing the problems in Philadelphia:

“We’re seeing many, many of the public sector jobs cut back,” he notes.  “We’re also seeing the benefits cut back as well. Sixty-one thousand were thrown off general assistance!   So with those types of things going on, it’s not surprising that people at the lower rung of the ladder are suffering the most.”

And since the recession began, Bell adds, Bebashi has gone from serving about 60 people a month to about 400 people a month.

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