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How to Help the Hungry in Philadelphia

There are a host of easy ways to help the hungry in Philadelphia—from donating food and volunteering to organizing a food drive with friends

According to a report by Hunger Free America, one in five people in Philadelphia suffer from food insecurity, which, if you do the math, means that more than 300,000 Philadelphians lack access to affordable and nutritious food.

The study also reveals that, while national levels of food insecurity have fallen by about 15 percent over the last six years, Philadelphia’s have gone up by 22 percent.

Countless groups and organizations throughout Philadelphia are stepping up to end hunger—from established nonprofits to everyday groups of citizens. But they can use your help.

Not sure where to start? Keep reading for all kinds of ways you can do your part to help the hungry in Philadelphia. Don’t worry if you can’t tackle them all. Every little bit goes a long way.

Related: How to help the homeless in Philadelphia

How to help the hungry in Philadelphia

1. Give food to a food bank or pantry

Local food banks provide thousands of meals each year to needy Philadelphians, but they need our help to stock their pantries. If you have extra food items lying around, consider donating. You can find a great list of food banks here, courtesy of Philabundance. The organization has also put together a list of most-needed items, such as peanut butter and jelly or canned fruits and vegetables. Word to the wise: Call the food bank or pantry first to see what they really need. (Don’t just assume that dropping off 64 cans of creamed corn will actually be helpful.)

2. Super-charge your cash donation

Ask about a donation-matching program at your company. It’s a super easy way to double or even triple your givings to organizations working to fight food insecurity in Philadelphia.

3. Give time instead of food

A woman in a winter coat hands a homeless man a container of food.
Photo courtesy Sabina Louise Pierce

Consider volunteering at local food banks and pantries to help sort and distribute food to those who need it. You could also work directly with local hunger-fighting organizations like Sunday Love Project, Broad Street Ministry and D.O.P.E. (Doing Our Part Eclectically) to help package, serve or deliver food to hungry people across Philadelphia. Check out this list of food pantries in Philadelphia, call them up and see what kind of help they need.

4. Schedule a food pick up with an app

Download the Food Connect app on your phone to schedule a pick up of any food items you want to donate. Just type in your name, address and how much food you want to donate, and someone will come by to pick it up. It’s that easy!

5. Organize a food drive with friends

Organizing a food drive is something anyone can do—in any community—and it can be kind of fun when you involve pals. And it just got that much easier with Move for Hunger, a nonprofit in New Jersey that’s working to wipe out hunger in our area. Check out its Food Drives 101 page to learn how to organize a community food drive. If you still have questions, give Move for Hunger a call.

6. Support restaurants that donate food waste

Photo courtesy Anthony Pezzotti

In Philadelphia, 20 percent of edible food will go to waste, and restaurants are a big culprit. That’s why Abbe Stern started Fooding Forward, an organization that helps restaurants in Philadelphia put excess food to good use. Consider eating at the restaurants that partner with Food Forward, such as Dizengoff, Federal Donuts or Metropolitan Bakery. If you work at or own a restaurant, you could also consider helping the company get involved.

7. Do some community gardening

Philadelphia Orchard Project
Photo courtesy Philadelphia Orchard Project

The produce grown in community gardens is not only fresher and better tasting, but growing food in our communities is an effective way to solve Philadelphia’s problem of food deserts. Use this map to find a community garden near you and consider volunteering. Or start your own community garden. Here’s a good guide on how to get started in Philadelphia.

8. Support urban farming

A farmer hands over a bowl of tomatoes to a person who needs them.
Photo courtesy Elaine Casap / Unsplash

Does the thought of doing your own garden seem daunting? You can still help further the cause by purchasing fruits, vegetables, cheeses and meats from some of the urban farms working to fight food insecurity in Philadelphia, such as Greensgrow, the Sankofa Community Farm at Bartram’s Garden and Weavers Way. Farmers’ markets are a great place to start, too. Find one nearest you with this map by The Food Trust.

9. Help folks access SNAP

A man talks on the phone at the Coalition Against Hunger, where you can volunteer to help people sign up for a food assistance program like SNAP
Photo courtesy Berkeley Communications / Unsplash

Get in touch with the Coalition Against Hunger, which offers a variety of volunteer opportunities to help the hungry in Philadelphia get the nourishment they need. One thing they need is for people to offer administrative services to do things like help local people easily sign up for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)—formerly known as food stamps. For some, it is the best way to access fresh, healthy foods.

10. Learn more about food insecurity in Philadelphia

Broke in Philly logoDonating and volunteering are awesome ways to help the hungry in Philadelphia, but it also helps to actually understand what causes food insecurity in the first place. Broke in Philly is a great resource for when you’re wanting to learn more about the people who are most in need in Philly. The collaborative reporting project works with 20 media outlets—including The Citizen—to support journalism about solutions to hunger, poverty and the city’s push toward economic justice. Follow them to stay abreast of the reporting they’re doing.

11. Fight the hunger epidemic from campus

Hey, college kids, you can help feed the hungry, too! There are just shy of 350,000 students in Philadelphia, and each of you is capable of fighting the hunger epidemic. Here are two easy ways: Sign up for Swipes for Philadelphia, an organization that lets students donate extra meals on their food cards. Or get involved with Sharing Excess, an organization that engages students in sharing excess food.

12. Contact your electeds

It’d be hard to move the needle on hunger in Philadelphia without the help of our elected officials. Have an idea or proposed bill you’re passionate about? Take the time to contact your City Council rep or congress member to let them know. Here’s how you can do that.

13. Give to someone who is hungry

A homeless person sleeps on the street next to a sign asking for help and a bag of cookies.
Photo courtesy runran / Flickr

Consider how much your last cup of coffee cost you. For that––or probably much less––you could buy food for someone on the street. Stop into Wawa and buy them a sandwich and a bottle of water, or you could also hand over your leftovers from dinner. You weren’t going to eat those vegetables, anyway. Sometimes it’s the slightest gestures that make the biggest difference.

Header photo courtesy Steve Knutson / Unsplash

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