Program will be held solely online with a goal of 40,000 pounds of food to get to a lifetime of 100,000
KING OF PRUSSIA, PA – The Valley Forge Tourism & Convention Board (VFTCB) kicked off its 8th Annual Valley Forge Freedom from Hunger Food Drive by cooking and serving hot lunch to more than 100 guests at the Norristown Hospitality Center.
The food drive will run through Oct. 31 to continue to build awareness around the increased need in Montgomery County due to the impact of inflation, and to assist with less available financial aid. This year’s fundraiser – once again held exclusively online – has a goal of collecting 40,000 pounds of food through the fall to support local food pantries and soup kitchens struggling to feed more in the community with fewer funds, and to get to a lifetime contribution of 100,000 pounds.
VFTCB staff and President & CEO Mike Bowman (a former executive chef) were joined by Montgomery County Community College (MCCC) Chefs Joe Jacques and Mark Bellini, MCCC Director of Hospitality Karima Roepel, and Hospitality Coordinator Kristina Montone, as well as Montgomery County Commissioner Ken Lawrence, representing on behalf of the county.
The VFTCB is again partnering with the MontCo Anti-Hunger Network (MAHN), a coalition of hunger relief organizations working together to keep families stable with food assistance. MAHN provides resources to almost 70 food pantries and soup kitchens that feed those who are food insecure in Montco.
“Our community is having to make tough decisions each day,” said Amanda Musselman, the new Executive Director of MAHN. “When budgets are strained, grocery expenses are the first to be cut. A lot of people – seniors, families with children, and young adults – are coming to food pantries for the first time. They are working, but their dollar doesn’t go as far as it used to. We feel that same strain at MAHN when we go to purchase wholesale food or fuel our trucks to support our food resource network.”
All pantries and soup kitchens in the county reported an increase in need – up 150%, and in some areas, 364% – anywhere from at least 10 to more than 50 or even hundreds more additional households:
- Eastern Montgomery County/Willow Grove – 364% (125 households a month in 2021 to 580 in 2022)
- Soup kitchens – more than 100%
- Lansdale – more than 60%
- Main Line – almost 60%
- Norristown – almost 40%
“When statewide shutdowns hit our community in 2020, the federal government provided extra funds and food, individual donations came flooding in, and restaurants rescued food that would have otherwise gone to waste,” Musselman said. “Now, with the ending of some of these critical support programs combined with inflation and increased demand in pantry resources, we need the support of our community now more than ever.”
Monetary donations are most impactful to aid with purchasing high-demand and much-needed items, including for personal care, such as: toothpaste/toothbrushes, shampoo, soap, diapers, underwear, t-shirts, etc. Some pantries are also in need of halal/kosher meat.
So far, Wegmans – on behalf of the company’s three Montgomery County stores in King of Prussia, Montgomeryville, and Collegeville – donated $1,000 to the food drive – the equivalent of 12,000 pounds of food.
“We’re asking for everyone that is able – including other businesses – to step up and give anything they can because there are so many in need,” said Mike Bowman, President & CEO of the VFTCB. “As leaders, it’s our responsibility to take care of each other. These are our friends, our neighbors, our families, our children, and every dollar counts. Please, do the right thing, and join us in our commitment to fighting hunger together.”
The Freedom from Hunger Food Drive benefits all people accessing food pantry services, and was created as a farewell “gift” to Pope Francis in 2015 when the Pontiff stayed in Montgomery County at the St. Charles Borromeo Seminary during the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia. To date, the VFTCB has collected more than 75,000 pounds of food to feed the hungry in Montco. In its eighth year, the drive continues to support the community that the tourism board diligently promotes to visitors across the nation, and around the world. To donate, visit www.valleyforge.org/hunger.
“We are grateful for the support of businesses like VFTCB that understands for Montco to remain strong, everyone needs access to healthy, nutritious foods,” said Musselman. “We can make that vision a reality when we choose to work together. We hope other businesses will join us.”
If anyone needs assistance, view the list of MAHN’s food pantries and soup kitchens here: https://www.montcoantihunger.org/mahn-member-food-pantries.html.
The Valley Forge Tourism & Convention Board (VFTCB) is a nonprofit, membership-based sales and marketing organization that actively promotes Valley Forge and Montgomery County, PA as a convention site and leisure visitor destination by encouraging patronage of its 500+ member hotels, restaurants, attractions, and services. The award-winning website links visitors, meeting planners, tour operators, and residents to a diverse portfolio of brands focused on reasons to visit the region.