Outside Service creates a Healthy Future for many in Philadelphia

This year marks the 20th anniversary of AmeriCorps, and March is Healthy Futures month. Although every Philadelphia Health Corps position supports people in achieving a healthier future, I’d like to focus on what our members do to promote one integral part of a healthy future: nutrition.

Although the vast majority of the 1700 hours PHC members commit to service are served at our host sites, we still have the opportunity to volunteer at organizations around the city. Since relocating to Philadelphia in September, I’ve had the great privilege of volunteering in many different communities dealing with nutrition and food access issues. I’ve been able to participate in donation sorting, food delivery, food preparation, and meal service, all while learning about hunger and food access in Philadelphia in a hands-on way.

I spent a few Saturday mornings with fellow PHC members at Philabundance, an organization that provides food help to approximately 72,000 people each week, sorting their food donations in a central warehouse. Since they serve 9 counties across the Delaware Valley, their scope and the number of people served is an example of just how many people are affected by hunger in the Philadelphia area.

With Mitzvah Food Project, a fellow member and I have taken on a delivery route in North Philadelphia. These deliveries go to a wide range of people, including the ill or home-bound, the elderly, single parents, and the newly poor who need urgent assistance after a loss of income. This has been great opportunity to further explore the neighborhoods that surround our host site, and to help provide non-perishable food items and vegetables to those in need.

Although behind the scenes work like sorting and deliveries is essential for any service organization, serving a meal allows us to make direct connections with those we serve. For instance, our group has been able to provide hot meals during the week at Chosen 300 Ministries and on Sundays at Grace Cafe at the Arch St. United Methodist Church.

Hunger is a huge problem in the Philadelphia area, with 900,000 people facing food insecurity across the Delaware Valley every day. But hunger-related outside service projects have allowed PHC members to make a real contribution to providing a healthy future for some of these people.

This post was written by PHC member Emma James.
Emma serves at the Philadelphia Department of Public Health - Ambulatory Health Services as a Patient Assistance Program Advocate.