WILLIAMSPORT — A goal recently undertaken by the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank was indeed bold.
The effort was dubbed the Bold Goal, noted Carla Fisher, communications and marketing coordinator at the Williamsport-area healthy food hub. They hope to see hunger in Central Pennsylvania effectively ended by 2025.
Fisher said the nonprofit covers 27 counties in the center of the commonwealth and works with more than 1,000 local agencies and partner programs. Progress to date included narrowing meal gaps in the counties served.
Progress toward meeting the Bold Goal would include more collaborations with partners.
“We are in the food business,” Fisher said. “(We) provide provide better foods, give better access to our neighbors in need and work with many partners.”
Partners could include retailers, front-line agencies and individuals seeking to meet community needs. Data supplied said more than 135,000 food insecure individuals are served each month. They included working families, seniors, active military personnel, veterans and children.
“We have closed meal gaps in some counties,” Fisher said. “We definitely have areas in other counties that we are really looking at to make sure we are closing meal gaps.”
Fisher said when economic “blips” occur, the Food Bank responds. Such was the case earlier this year when a major Snyder County employer was shuttered for a time.
“When Wood-Mode closed we definitely saw the need,” Fisher said. “We reached out to the community and let them know where our partner was and made sure they had more food to meet the need.”
The Food Bank also was open extended hours during a prolonged federal government shutdown.
“Hunger isn’t selective. we are here for everyone,” Fisher added. “If it is for a moment, if it is for a longer moment, whatever it is to help people get back on their feet, we are here.”
Joe Arthur, executive director, reiterated that battling hunger was more than just providing “enough” food.
“Food security is really about enough healthy food every day to lead a healthy life,” Arthur recently said. “We are committed to providing nutritious food to our neighbors in need. To do this we must work together to build new and stronger partnerships. We know if we provide access to nutritious foods, we can help people thrive.”
Support comes from grants and in-kind product donations, food purchase programs, shared maintenance and program fees and investment income. A 2018 report to the community indicated nearly 97% of what is spent goes to program services, with about 3% going toward management, fundraising and general expenses.
Partnerships include the Geisinger Fresh Food Farmacy. The project was set up so that moderate to severely diabetic patients would not only be provided nutritious food, but also medical and educational support. The Farmacy was established with the philosophy that food could be used as medicine.
Alecia Beachy, associate project manager of the Shamokin Farmacy, helped the service get started and has seen it grow from six to more than 200 patients in two years.
Doctors, and their most disengaged and food insecure patients, were sought. They were “prescribed” lean meats, fresh produce and whole grains according to ADA recommendations. A1C hemoglobin, a blood sugar indicator, has improved for many patients through improved nutrition and education.l
Tom Shicowich, a one-patient, was among severely diabetic patients to improve and now teaches for the Farmacy.
“Through the Fresh Food Farmacy and the food the offer (with) the education programs they also provide, I’ve been given the tools to keep my A1C from a 10.9 to a 6.9,” he noted. “I’ve (also) lost more than 50 pounds through the program.”
Corporate and foundation support included C and S Wholesale Grocers Inc., Conagra Brands Foundation, Kennth Bankert Foundation Inc., PNC Foundation, Red Nose Day, Rite Aid Foundation and the UPS Foundation.
Visit www.centralpafoodbank.org for more information.