Food Insecurity in Philadelphia

Every Sunday from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m., I make 50 bagged lunches for homeless people in Kensington, a neighborhood in Northeast Philadelphia, Pa. I’ve been doing this for about two years now, and every Monday my mom delivers the lunches with the Sunday Love Project, the organization that coordinates the effort. Handing out the food never takes longer than ten minutes, but every week we get reports of how grateful the people are to receive the lunches. The fact that there are so many organizations trying to end food insecurity in Philadelphia yet it’s still a major issue is really concerning to me. I get to live in a nice house and go to a fancy school, but if you take a ten-minute drive from my house, you get to a neighborhood where there’s a food desert, meaning there are no fresh food markets or grocery stores nearby. Food deserts tend to be in low-income areas, and the people living in them have very little access to fresh food.

According to a report by Hunger Free America, from 2015 to 2017, 302,685 Philadelphia residents lived in food-insecure households. This number reflects a 22 percent increase over the previous six years. During the 2015–2017 time frame, 239,627 adults were working but still food insecure. The report also calculated that, to end hunger, “the food purchasing power of food-insecure families would need to be increased by $158 million in Philadelphia and $355 million in the Philadelphia metropolitan area.” These numbers are shockingly high, at least they are to me. I have the privilege of being able to turn a blind eye to the problems that my city has, but many people don’t. Every week I try to make a difference in the food insecurity problem, but it feels like it hardly makes a dent. Every week I work for three hours shopping for fruit, making sandwiches, and bagging lunches, but the difference it makes is small compared to what needs to be done. Still, every week for almost two years I’ve made lunches and felt grateful for having a life like mine.

All of this could change. If everyone who had the time did a little bit of volunteer work each week or donated a little bit of food, we could turn the tide on the overwhelming wave of food insecurity. Until then, I’ll continue making lunches every Sunday.

Read more: Student Voices Project 2020

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