The Valley Forge Tourism and Convention Board has kicked off its annual Freedom from Hunger Food Drive.
What started as a pledge to Pope Francis at the end of the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia in 2015 has — nine years later — become part of the fall landscape in Montgomery County. Since its inception in 2015, the effort has raised the monetary equivalent of more than 164,000 pounds of food.
The fall campaign officially got underway on Friday, Aug. 25, at Cecil & Grace Bean’s Soup Kitchen in Norristown. Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Darius Slay joined representatives from the tourism board, Montgomery County Board of Commissioners Chairman Ken Lawrence, and other guests — to prepare and serve a gourmet cookout of burgers, hot dogs, and Merrymead Farm ice cream to more than 100 guests at Cecil & Grace Bean’s Soup Kitchen.
The fall food drive will run through Oct. 31 — to continue building awareness around the increased need in Montgomery County due to the impact of the rising cost of food — which jumped more than 10% over the last year, according to a press release.
As it has since 2020, the Freedom from Hunger Food Drive is being conducted completely online — rather than by physically collecting food.
The goal for this year’s fundraiser is to collect 60,000 pounds of food in support of local food pantries and soup kitchens as they struggle to feed more in the community with fewer funds. If the goal is met — the Freedom from Hunger Food Drive will reach a lifetime contribution of 224,000 pounds.
“The only chance we’ve got in ever beating hunger is to fight it together,” Mike Bowman, Valley Forge Tourism and Convention Board president & CEO, said in a statement. “We have so many amazing and generous businesses in the Montco community. We’re asking them to join us in giving anything they can, and helping us spread the word that the pandemic may technically be over, but hunger isn’t.”
As it has in the past, the Valley Forge Tourism and Convention Board is partnering with the MontCo Anti-Hunger Network, which is a coalition of hunger relief organizations working together to keep families stable with food assistance. The MontCo Anti-Hunger Network provides resources to food pantries that feed those who are food insecure in Montgomery County — providing resources to almost 70 free meal providers that feed about 20,000 households and almost 65,000 individuals, according to a press release.
Amanda Musselman, executive director of the MontCo Anti-Hunger Network, said the Freedom from Hunger Food Drive is a “crucial initiative” to rally support for area food pantries and free meal providers.
“In these challenging times, as they face the daunting task of feeding a growing number of individuals with dwindling resources, this virtual drive becomes a beacon of hope, uniting us all in the fight against hunger. Together, we can make a tangible difference in the lives of those in need, ensuring that our neighbors in Montgomery County do not go to bed hungry,” she said in a statement.
Last year’s fall initiative raised the monetary equivalent of 45,000 pounds of food — surpassing its original goal of 40,000 pounds of food. Earlier this year, the tourism board launched its first spring Freedom from Hunger Food Drive, raising the monetary equivalent of 32,000 pounds of food.
According to Nokidhunger.org, for every dollar donated, seven meals — or 12 pounds of food — can be provided by using money to buy food in bulk to give to families in need. Monetary donations are most impactful to aid with purchasing high-demand and much-needed items, including for personal care, the release stated.
Some area businesses have already made a commitment to the fall Freedom from Hunger effort:
• On Sept. 7, King of Prussia Mall will host a Back-to-School movie night featuring Disney’s Encanto in the outer parking lot on the perimeter of the property, directly across from True Food Kitchen, for a $5-a-person donation. Rain date is Sept. 14. Festivities begin at 6:30 p.m. with the movie starting at 7:30 p.m. Registration is required: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/king-of-prussia-mall-freedom-from-hunger-movie-night-tickets-696241776897?aff=oddtdtcreator.
• Throughout September and October, Workhorse Brewing Co. in King of Prussia will honor a $1 donation for every Workhorse Punchcard Series draft sold in those two months.
• Madden Media donated $500, which is the monetary equivalent of 6,000 pounds of food.
• Black Powder Tavern donated $250, which is the monetary equivalent of 3,000 pounds of food.
The food drive fulfills a promise made by the agency in 2015 when Pope Francis stayed in Montgomery County at the St. Charles Borromeo Seminary during the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia. The tourism agency created the food drive as a farewell gift to the Pontiff.
Those in need of assistance can view the list of MAHN’s food pantries and soup kitchens at https://www.montcoantihunger.org/mahn-member-food-pantries.html. For more information about the MontCo Anti-Hunger Network, visit www.montcoantihunger.org/.
To make a donation to the Freedom from Hunger Food Drive, visit www.valleyforge.org/hunger.