New Food Distribution Model Tackles Hunger in Philadelphia

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Thanks to the hard work of Saint Joseph’s University students and faculty a new Community Food Center will launch this month, giving Philadelphia’s hungry access to food in a non-traditional way.

In the spring of 2009, Philabundance, the second largest food bank in the United States, solicited the help of Saint Joseph’s food marketing department to develop a food service model that better met the needs of the city’s hungry. A class of Saint Joseph’s students responded by developing a realistic, practical solution: the Community Food Center.

Studies have shown that the current community food model, the pantry line, isn’t sufficiently meeting the needs of Philadelphia’s hungry. According to Philabundance, there are currently 307,000 people at risk of hunger in Philadelphia. Demand for emergency food assistance has increased 23 percent in the city while supply has increased 26 percent. And according to a recent census, Philadelphia’s poverty rate is “roughly double” the national figure.

To improve the pantry system, Martin Meloche, Ph.D., associate professor of food marketing at Saint Joseph’s, and William Clark, president and executive director of Philabundance, worked with students to create a solution.

"One of the most important lessons that I took away from this project is that it takes a great deal of persistence and patience to accomplish such an amazing feat as the community cupboard," says Christy Allen '09, a participant in the Spring 2009 class who worked on the food distribution model. "Additionally, this project gave me a great appreciation not only for the assistance of volunteers, but also an appreciation for the people who envision and organize necessary improvements to our community."

The students developed a model where residents in-need are able to choose from available items rather than take a prepared box or bag of food, which is the pantry line’s current model. A priority for both the University and Philabundance, according to Meloche, was to develop a concept that “provided the clientele with access to food in an efficient and dignified manner.”  Both organizations believe the Community Food Center accomplishes this objective.

“The idea behind the University’s mission, being a person for others, understanding those in need, having a social platform, being a person of justice – all of these reflect the Ignatian attitude of Saint Joseph's,” says Meloche. “I think the community will benefit greatly from our efforts.”

The Community Food Center was made possible with support from Saint Joseph’s Center and Department of Food Marketing, Philabundance and the Philadelphia Mayor’s Office of Community Service. For more information, or to volunteer, contact Meloche at mmeloche@sju.edu or 610-660-1817.

Media Contact

 Carolyn Steigleman, Associate Director of University Communications, 610-660-1355, csteigle@sju.edu




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