Berks, Chester, Montgomery counties’ food banks hit hard by inflation

By mid-November, most people have already leaped headfirst into the holiday season .
The trick-or-treaters have collected their sugarcoat and put away their costumes, and preparations for Thanksgiving have begun. Turkeys have been picked out, invitations to dinner made and plans for Black Friday shopping have been mapped out .
In some houses Christmas trees have already been put up and give buy has begun. A faint trace of the charming of the temper can be felt in the vent .
But that ’ s not the case for everyone. For hundreds of people in communities across the region, the depart of the vacation season is fraught with try and frustration and concern.

Boxes of food for distribution await distribution from Helping Harvest, 117 Morgan Drive, Cumru Township, as part of Operation Holiday. (BILL UHRICH - READING EAGLE)
Some are struggling with a job passing, others with unexpected and crippling checkup bills .
Some are single mothers doing all they can to provide for their children. Some are dealing with tragedies like a house fire or the death of a sleep together one .
Some are just stretched flimsy by ongoing inflation that has pushed the prices of groceries, gasoline and other items flip high .
Each could use a helping hand to make this holiday season a little bright .
And that ’ s precisely what Operation Holiday — which kicks off today — is all about.
operation Holiday is an annual program run by local anesthetic MediaNews Group newspapers — which include the Reading Eagle — that uses donations from readers to provide local families in need with give cards to buy food and presents during the vacation season. It besides raises funds for local food banks .

A desperate need

For the stopping point 2 1/2 years, Jay Worrall has found himself in the middle of a foreign and chilling new world .
Jay Worrall, president of Helping Harvest, a food bank that serves Berks and Schuylkill counties.
The administrator director of Helping Harvest food bank in Spring Township has seen the havoc shaped by the COVID pandemic cause the indigence for his organization ’ s services to explode .
And while in many ways the world has begun to move on from the devastating disease, its pain is still being felt by many. particularly when it comes to food insecurity .
“ We have seen over the last six months or so another spike in demand, ” Worrall said .
Volunteer Diane Fisher, right, packs boxes of food for distribution from Helping Harvest, 117 Morgan Drive, Cumru Township, as part of Operation Holiday. (BILL UHRICH - READING EAGLE)
Worrall said the gamey inflation the U.S. and the universe are facing — caused in part by issue chain breaks due to COVID and exacerbated by Russia ’ sulfur invasion of Ukraine — has meant Helping Harvest has found itself doling out about $ 1.5 million in food each calendar month .
“ Those are numbers that we have not seen since the vertex of the early separate of the pandemic rear in November 2020, ” Worrall said. “ Everybody is talking about the monetary value of food and the cost of flatulence. ”
Amanda Musselman, administrator film director of the MontCo Anti-Hunger Network, said she has besides seen families struggling with high-flown costs that have them abruptly facing food insecurity .
“ none of us are strangers to the newfangled norm of food prices which have significantly increased by 10 % this year, ” she said. “ A lot of people — seniors, families with children and young adults — are coming to food pantries for the foremost prison term. They are working, but their dollar doesn ’ deoxythymidine monophosphate go american samoa far as it used to. ”
Musselman said inflation has forced some struggling families to make impossible choices .
A Montgomery County food pantry. (Courtesy of MontCo Anti-Hunger Network)
“ Every day, our community is making hood decisions, normally a choice between food and other critical needs like medicine, house, child care and transportation, ” she said. “ Going into this vacation season, our emergency food net is seeing a sustain surge in demand for pantry services .
“ I urge those who can to step up and give because it is our province to take care of each other and our residential district. ”
Anne Shuniak, senior coach of commercialize and communications for the Chester County Food Bank, said people in her community are besides struggling .
“ Tens of thousands of families, children, seniors, veterans and individuals in Chester County are struggling to put food on the table, ” she said. “ The necessitate for food aid has increased by more than 30 %, yet food and fiscal donations have decreased by more than 25 % for the Chester County Food Bank. ”
Like those turning for avail at Helping Harvest, families seeking services from the Chester County Food Bank are feeling the pinch caused by inflation.

“ The impingement of inflation on family budgets continues to intensify, ” said Andrea Youndt, the food bank ’ second CEO. “ It ’ randomness more expensive to put flatulence in your car ; heat costs have increased. And then, of run, the prices at the grocery store are more with every tripper .
“ For many households, spending hundreds of extra dollars each month on the same necessities will likely force them to reduce their spending somewhere, and unfortunately, that is typically their food budget. ”
Youndt said inflation has besides made it more expensive for the food bank to provide aid .
“ The Food Bank has spent $ 500,000 more on food costs in the past six months than the lapp time stopping point year, ” she said .
But that added monetary value international relations and security network ’ thymine stopping local food banks from helping .
Worrall said that taking care of those in need in the residential district becomes evening more pressing during the vacation season, with families looking for an low-cost way to celebrate .
“ For the winter holiday, food just plays a cardinal role in them, ” he said. “ traditional holiday meals are expensive and probable out of the range of low-income folks ’ ability to handle on their own. So people are looking for more aid from us .
“ This is normally our busy time of the year, and I ’ molarity very certain that will be the case this class. ”
Along with seeing an increase motivation during the holiday season, food banks besides see increase donations. Worrall said Helping Harvest receives about 40 % to 50 % of its fiscal donations during the last two months of the year .
“ Really, the fund that we get in November and December sets the table for next year, ” he said. “ And we are anticipating another identical challenge class next year. ”

Three decades of support

operation Holiday dates to 1991 when it was created by The Mercury in Pottstown as a way to help struggling families provide something for their children during the holidays .
The mission of the program is to make sure there is food on the table and gifts under the tree when Christmas dawn comes .

immediately in its 32nd class, the plan has served thousands of families throughout Berks, Chester and Montgomery counties, expanding its scope in recent years to include communities served by the Reading Eagle, The Times Herald, The Reporter and Daily Local News .
The platform ’ s emergence led to a entire of $ 122,000 in donations concluding year, which helped provide food and gifts for 379 children and cash donations to 13 food pantries in Berks, Chester and Montgomery counties .
“ The horizontal surface of giving by our local anesthetic readers concluding class was unprecedented, ” said Nancy March, a MediaNews Group editor and board member of the foundation that manages Operation Holiday. “ We were able not only to help local families in indigence, but besides to support the exercise of food pantries who deal every day with childhood starve in our communities. ”
This year, Operation Holiday has partnered with 22 agencies in the tri-county area. Agencies have referred 144 families with 375 children for gifts and food and an extra 34 families for food. The program is besides assisting the eight families in Pottstown who lost their homes in a lay waste to explosion in May .
There is no overhead with Operation Holiday and all funds stay local. Funds are collected and audited in a nonprofit foundation report managed by staff of MediaNews Group who volunteer their time .
gift cards to area grocery stores are provided to each family for food so they can purchase the fixings for a holiday dinner deoxyadenosine monophosphate well as staples for the pantry. Weis Markets is a partner with Operation Holiday and has assisted with food purchases and gift cards .
giving cards for every child in the course of study 16 and younger are purchased through Boscov ’ s and distributed in partnership with the referring agencies so families can purchase gifts of their choice .
process Holiday does not accept families who have not been referred by an agency .
operation Holiday is funded entirely by lector contributions, and all contributions are tax deductible.

How to donate

on-line donations are being accepted in a dependable portal site in partnership with TriCounty Community Network. Visit tcnetwork.org and snap on the connection for Operation Holiday .
Contributions can be mailed with checks collectible to Operation Holiday to PO Box 1181, Pottstown PA 19464 ; The Reporter, 307 Derstine Ave., Lansdale PA 19446 ; Operation Holiday, 1440 Lacrosse Ave., Reading, PA 19607 .
The names of all contributors are published in the participating newspapers as donations are received. Please note whether a contribution should be designated as anonymous or given in protection or in memory of person .

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