KING OF PRUSSIA, PA – On September 1, 2020, the Valley Forge Tourism & Convention Board (VFTCB) will kick off its sixth annual Valley Forge Freedom from Hunger Food Drive, a campaign that builds awareness around hunger in Montgomery County.
Due to COVID-19, this year’s drive will take place solely online with a goal of collecting 15,000 pounds of food throughout the month of September. Monetary contributions to purchase canned goods and other foods will be accepted instead of physical donations.
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 food pantries that feed more than 15,000 households a year, and serve the more than 80,000 people who are food insecure in the county.
And, participation at many of those locations is much higher than normal due to the novel coronavirus outbreak, according to MAHN officials.
So far this year, 73% of 34 MAHN member food pantries have seen an increase in volume, in some cases double, or even triple, especially when nonessential businesses were shut down. At that time, the increase at high-volume pantries in Norristown and Lansdale saw as much as a 200-300% increase in client numbers, officials said.
That’s just one of the many reasons why this year’s Freedom from Hunger Food Drive is so important.
“We take our commitment to this drive, this community, very seriously,” said Mike Bowman, President & CEO of the VFTCB. “We made a promise to serve our neighbors in need, and they need us now more than ever. COVID won’t stop us. We can fight this virus, and hunger, by coming together.”
The Freedom from Hunger Food Drive benefits all people accessing food pantry services. COVID-19 has caused that number to grow. Those without the financial cushion required to manage a layoff, kids missing out on school meal programs, and seniors without means who are vulnerable to the virus are all in critical need of community support right now.
Since recovery from the public health pandemic could take years, more people than ever before will be relying on the charitable food network for assistance. This year’s donations will strengthen that network for people who need it today and tomorrow.
In fact, when the public health pandemic closed schools, and businesses, in the spring, the VFTCB promoted online donations to MAHN through the drive’s link on valleyforge.org. At a rate of .23 cents per pound, the almost $2,000 that’s already been raised since March has helped MAHN purchase several thousand pounds of food.
Some of MAHN’s COVID-19 response work includes direct to pantry delivery of 56,710 pounds of COVID-19-prompted food donations, dollars for wholesale food purchases, and operating equipment needed by food pantries to keep up with demand, and stopgap distribution assistance to pantries temporarily closed for virus remediation, according to MAHN’s Executive Director, Paula Schafer.
“Dollars generated by this year’s Valley Forge Freedom from Hunger campaign will support MAHN’s COVID-19 response efforts,” she said. “Consequences of the pandemic are threatening the stability of thousands of Montco households. Staying fed is a real challenge for many of them now. The charitable food network is not able to address the increase in demand without help. We’re thankful for the support of businesses like the VFTCB that understand how community well-being is strengthened when all of us are fed.”
The Valley Forge Freedom from Hunger Food Drive 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 25,000 pounds of food to feed the hungry in Montco. In its sixth 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.
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.