Freedom from Hunger Food Drive surpasses goal again

KING OF PRUSSIA — The Valley Forge Tourism and Convention Board has once again surpassed the goal set for its eighth annual Freedom from Hunger Food Drive.

The drive, which ran through the month of October, raised the monetary equivalent of 45,000 pounds of food — surpassing its original goal of 40,000 pounds of food.

Since the inception of the event in 2015, the tourism board has contributed 100,000 pounds of food.

“We challenged local leaders, and they answered the call to help those in need,” Mike Bowman, president & CEO of the Valley Forge Tourism and Convention Board, said in a statement. “We can’t thank everyone who chipped in enough because every dollar counts. This is how you take responsibility to care for others. This is how you fight hunger together.”

The agency once again partnered with the MontCo Anti-Hunger Network, a coalition of hunger relief organizations working together to keep families stable with food assistance. The MontCo Anti-Hunger Network provides resources to almost 70 food pantries and soup kitchens that feed those who are food insecure in Montco.

This year’s fundraiser was again held exclusively online — supporting area food pantries and soup kitchens “struggling to feed more in the community with fewer funds through the fall,” according to a press release.

The annual food drive builds awareness about the increased need in Montgomery County due to the impact of inflation.

Several businesses in the region donated $500 or more to this year’s initiative, with donations that equaled 25,000 pounds of food:

• Wegmans — $1,000 (12,000 pounds)• GIANT — 100 turkeys (1,000 pounds)• Valley Forge Casino Resort — $500 (6,000 pounds)• TD Bank — $500 (6,000 pounds)

“With community members making tough decisions every day, having businesses like the Valley Forge Tourism & Convention Board — and several who donated — step up, means easing the strain on some of our residents and our organization by providing the support that we haven’t been seeing as much since the pandemic,” Amanda Musselman, executive director of the MontCo Anti-Hunger Network. “All people deserve access to healthy, nutritious foods, so we appreciate anyone who contributed to make our mission a reality.”

Across Montgomery County, all food pantries and soup kitchens have seen an increase in need — up 150%, and in some areas, 364% — according to information provided by the tourism board:

• Eastern Montgomery County/Willow Grove — up 364%, from 125 households a month in 2021 to 580 in 2022• Soup kitchens — up more than 100%• Lansdale — up more than 60%• Main Line — up almost 60%• Norristown — up almost 40%

This was the third year the Freedom from Hunger Food Drive has been a completely online event — with monetary donations collected rather than food items.

Monetary donations are most impactful to aid with purchasing high-demand and much-needed items, including for personal care, such as toothpaste/toothbrushes, shampoo, soap, diapers, underwear, t-shirts, etc. Some pantries are also in need of halal/kosher meat, the release stated.

The Freedom from Hunger Food Drive was started as a farewell “gift” to Pope Francis in 2015 when the Pontiff stayed in Montgomery County during the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia. It has grown each year — to date raising enough for more than 100,000 pounds of food to feed the hungry in Montgomery County.

To donate, visit www.valleyforge.org/hunger.

Those in need of assistance can view the list of the MontCo Anti-Hunger Network’s food pantries and soup kitchens by visiting: https://www.montcoantihunger.org/mahn-member-food-pantries.html.

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