Looking over past Wolff’s Apple House newsletters and the Wolff’s Facebook page, I’ve noticed that some of our favorite words are “abundant” and “abundance.” Our farm market really does stock pounds upon pounds of fresh produce, and this only increases during the local growing season. To maintain the high level of quality we always want to provide for our customers, most of that produce is picked the very same day we sell it, and we won’t sell produce that is anything less than fresh.
Our corn, for instance, is picked fresh every single day from mid-June to early October. Peaches and tomatoes are picked ripe and sold in our store either the same day or the next day.
That could definitely prompt the question, “What happens to this abundance of local produce if it doesn’t sell after a day or two? It would still be quite edible and nutritious!”
Philabundance, the Delaware Valley’s largest hunger relief organization, provides the answer. Since January 2012, Wolff’s has partnered with this organization to supply nutritious local produce for families, seniors and other individuals who are in need of food.
This partnership is important in the Delaware Valley, where almost a million people need food and can’t afford it. In the past year, Philabundance has seen a 25% increase in clients, and hunger threatens not only those in the poorest communities, but even those in formerly stable suburbs. People all across the Delaware Valley can no longer afford the food they need to keep themselves and their families healthy.
Philabundance addresses this. Each week, they reach 65,000 people through emergency food kitchens, senior centers, food cupboards and direct service programs. Elizabeth Rosenberg, Food Acquisition Manager for Philabundance, says that in addition to providing just pounds for clients, the organization wants to connect them with nutritious food. “Fruits and vegetables,” she says, “are such a large part of that.” Rosenberg has seen that when people have to tighten their grocery budgets “fresh fruits and vegetables are the first things to go.”
Not wanting hungry people to forfeit this crucial part of their diets, Philabundance started a network of free produce stands called Fresh For All. These distributions are open once a week at the same time and location, allowing clients to depend on that consistency and plan weekly meals. Not only does Philabundance make Fresh For All dependable, they also make the program easy to access. Need is self-declared and once clients register, they can walk through the line the same day and come away carrying healthy produce. Philabundance runs 12 Fresh For All sites in Pennsylvania and New Jersey–six in each state– and asks clients to register so that the organization can track where people are coming from and adaptively “shift resources to where they are needed,” says Rosenberg.
Wolff’s produce primarily serves Fresh For All clients, though it can also be distributed to neighborhood agencies, too. Annette Grant, a 47-year-old from Upper Darby, is one Fresh For All client. The economic downturn hit the hospital where Grant worked as a Liscenced Practical Nurse, making her schedule swing erratically between full-time and part-time and destabilizing her income. Grant began skipping meals so her two daughters could eat, a desperate move since Grant has diabetes and no health insurance.
“The realization that you don’t have enough food creeps up on you,” Grant told Philabundance. As hunger crept into her household, she noticed a long line outside a church in her neighborhood and asked what it was for. That was when she found out about Fresh For All. “At first my pride took a lot out of me,” she said, “but then, I realized, I have to do this. I have to do this for my children and myself.” Grant is hoping that she will be able to work full-time again soon. Until then, she knows she has fresh produce she can depend on.
There’s no way of knowing for sure, but it’s possible that Grant has picked up some of Wolff’s produce at Fresh For All. One thing is for sure, though. Produce Wolff’s has donated to Philabundance “has made a huge, huge difference,” according to Rosenberg.
Since January, Wolff’s has been able to give Philabundance just over 27,000 pounds of nutrient-packed produce—27,091 pounds as of this past Monday (the 16th)! The high quality standards Wolff’s maintains mean that even the “seconds” are of usable quality. All of the 27, 091 pounds were able to be distributed to clients. Rosenberg says that Philabundance has not had to throw out a single thing they received from Wolff’s. So, that means that Wolff’s has helped provide nearly 27,000 meals, and that number will only increase!
Ever since the local growing season produced that abundance we’ve all been talking about, Wolff’s has been able to step up its partnership. At the beginning of June, we began donating twice a week instead of just once per week.
This increase came at just the right time, explains Rosenberg. For many families, summer means more mouths to feed. Close to 300,000 children in the Delaware Valley qualify for free or reduced lunches at school. What does this mean at home in the summer time? It means families who strained their resources to provide even just dinner for their kids during the school year are now faced with rationing out three meals a day. Wolff’s ability to donate more produce during the summer means that more parents will have other options.
“We are so happy to be partnered with Philabundance,” says Fran Wolff. Before they found out about Philabundance, the Wolff family gave food to the local church Gennie Wolff, Fran’s mother, works for. Through Philabundance, Wolff’s Apple House is now able to distribute even more produce to those who would otherwise go hungry.
By cultivating relationships with farmers, buying the best of what they have to offer, and sharing the surplus with Philabundance, Wolff’s is helping to share our land’s bounty with those who need it most.
In the Delaware Valley, fields and farms surround us. In Pennsylvania, wheat fields bow and blow in the breeze and corn husks whistle in the wind. The ground is tender and loamy, and yields peach trees and cherries, apples and strawberries and melons. In New Jersey, blueberries dazzle the fields and cranberry bogs stretch out like a red sunset reflected on a lake. Delaware’s farms grow filling, fiber- and potassium-rich potatoes, and corn zig-zags across Maryland’s hills. Why should nearly a million people go hungry when the land is so rich? Philabundance is pursuing resourceful solutions to this problem, and Wolff’s Apple House is delighted to be a piece of that solution.