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Food Bank honors donors, volunteers, others with Hunger Hero Awards

Holly Mensch, left and her father, Harvey Vough, owner of Vough Acres farm, received the donor award from the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank Tuesday. The Vough farm has donated 25,000 pounds of fresh food to the Food Bank over the last four years. Joe Arthur, right, executive director of the Food Bank, made the presentation.

Friends, partners, volunteers and donors of the Food Bank gathered Tuesday morning at the local food bank site to honor the 2019 Hunger Hero Award winners.

Those honored and their awards were: Rep. Glenn Thompson, R-Howard, advocacy; Genetti Hotel, SureStay Collection by Best Western, corporate; Vough Acres, food donor; Marsha E. Goldstein, individual philanthropist; Geisinger, innovation and Joe Loehr, individual volunteer and the MisChiefs, an all-female volunteer group led by local resident Donna Bastian.

Noting that this is the time of the year when the Food Bank reports to its donors what it’s doing with the resources provided for their work, Joe Arthur, executive director of the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank said,” We are really like a conduit for your resources, your energy, your kindness to the folks that are struggling at any point in time. That’s what we do, we make sure. We give all of that and some loving care to the people in need.”

Donning his orange hat in honor or Hunger Action Month, Arthur highlighted the “Bold Goal” which has been set by the Food Bank that “By 2025, our collaborative network will provide access to enough nutritious food for everyone struggling with hunger in each of the 27 central Pennsylvania counties we serve and we will convene and nurture partnerships to make progress toward ending hunger.”

“That’s our Bold Goal. It’s a lot of words, but what it really means is by 2025, in measuring our work, we want to be able to say that everyone in Central Pennsylvania that is struggling with hunger has had three, healthy meals a day,” Arthur said.

“It is not an aspirational goal. It is an actual real goal, our goal. We’re measuring against it. It’s not just a nice thing to say that we throw out there or put on a logo. It is a real goal,” he added.

Noting that the Food Bank takes its mission seriously, Arthur said, “It is really about leveraging the resources that the community provides us and getting that to the people in need at the lowest possible cost.”

According to statistics released by the Food Bank, one in ten Central Pennsylvania residents, including working families, children, senior citizens, veterans and current military personnel struggle with hunger to the point that they may not know where they will find their next meal. The data also revealed that one in six children don’t have reliable access to three nutritious meals each day.

Arthur highlighted various programs which help the Food Bank carry out their mission to provide nutritious food to their clients. The state agriculture surplus system, PASS, which allows state farmers to donate food products while being reimbursed by the state.

“We’re in dairy country here, all the way through the Susquehanna valley is dairy country. We’ve been in a five-year dairy crisis, low prices. Something the industry sometimes calls oversupply. There’s a lot of milk that’s been going to waste. So, we’ve kind of become a market,” he said.

He explained that with state funding, the Food Bank has been able to convert 40 tanker loads of donated milk from state farmers into cheese made by state cheesemakers in order to feed people in need as part of its food assistance program. He continued that the same program allows the Food Bank to purchase fresh produce that might not have a market because they are seconds, but are still nutritious, as well as grains and meat.

Noting that the Food Bank is the largest charitable rescue food organization in the area, Arthur said that the food bank hubs as well as many of its partner agencies have been able to “rescue” food from grocery, department and convenience stores that would have otherwise been thrown away.

“This is a lot of fresh and frozen food as well–good food. Last year 20 percent of our meals came from food rescue. Fourteen million pounds of food was rescued by us and our partners at 400 sites,” he said.

He added that anyone who hears about “dumpster diving” or food being wasted should contact the Food Bank.

“This should not be happening and five years ago it happened all the time. It takes awhile for the news to catch up but the real news is we have the solution and it works,” he stressed.

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