Philadelphia Reflections

The musings of a physician who has served the community for over six decades

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Feeding America:St. Paul's Food Basket

Grace Episcopal Church in Haddonfield

Dick Hammond, a member of Grace Episcopal Church in Haddonfield, recently talked to the 65 Club of Haddonfield about his favorite hobby, which is St. Paul's Food Basket. That's a branch of the Camden County Foodbank, which operates in the basement of St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Camden, handing out bags of food every Friday morning. Asked why they picked Friday morning, he replied that it got started that way in 1982, and the clients get pretty confused when you change things, almost anything. The Camden County Foodbank, by the way, is one of six districts in New Jersey, with headquarters in the Community Food Bank, located up near New York in Hillsdale, N.J. And just to be complete, national headquarters of the whole organization is in Feeding America, located in Chicago. the organization was formed in 1982, claims to be the largest hunger relief agency in America, feeding about 37,000 people.

St. Paul's Food Basket.

Rather characteristically, the local "retail" agency doesn't know a great deal about the rest of Feeding America. It's just a group of mostly retired volunteers who show up and do the work. About two-thirds of the clients are the same age, and no one seemed to know whether that was characteristic of the national groups or just a local quirk. What they all know and immediately tell you is that all clients are expected to produce a photo ID, and they do. Getting such identification is absolutely no problem that they can see, and so you can see how they feel about the controversy over whether to require it for voting in elections. No problem.

Most of the food is donated by commercial sources, like one-day-old bread from national bakeries, canned goods, and cereal boxes. Each bag is worth about $25 retail and has a couple of dollars of costs like paper bags and refrigeration. It seems like a good diet, but it is a little short on fruits and vegetables. Many of the clients volunteer for one or another of the tasks in assembling the bags. Christmas turkeys and chickens are a separate issue, but make up a special deal. A fair number of the clients of this particular branch are Hispanic. Its local approval record is outstanding.

Originally published: Thursday, February 06, 2014; most-recently modified: Friday, May 17, 2019