UWCHLAN — With the COVID-19 pandemic putting a strain on its resources as more and more families face food insecurity, the Chester County Food Bank has gotten a financial shot in the arm with approval of grants by the county commissioners.
On Wednesday, the commissioners voted unanimously to approve $750,000 in state and federal funding for the Food Bank for the period of 2020 to 2022. Those funds come in addition to approval of $675,000 in federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding.
“Since we started the Food Bank, the commissioners have been fantastic,” said Larry Welsch, executive director of the Uwchlan-based organization. “They have supported everything we’ve done in becoming the food distributor for the county.”
None more so than now, when an increasing number of people are unemployed in the county and thus needing food assistance, he said. “It’s been a challenge.”
Welsch said that the Food Bank — which distributes fresh, packaged, and canned food to numerous local food banks and meal providers — had sent out eight weeks of food to their clients in just three weeks' time. On Friday, he learned that organizations in the county had distributed over 104,000 pounds of food, where normally the numbers would be between 80,000 and 90,000 pounds of food.
“We are very, very busy every week,” he said. “It hasn’t stopped.”
The county, one of the wealthiest in the state, normally has an unemployment rate below 4 percent. In April, the number of jobless claims was 11.7 percent of the workforce, more than 31,600 people.
“The need is there,” Welsch said
In an interview last week, Chester County Director of Human Services Kim Bowman said the Food Bank was the logical place for the county to allocate the food funding it received from the state and federal governments through their assistance programs.
“They are set up to work with all the food pantries in the county,” she said. “They have the trucks, they have the delivery services, they have the storage system. It is a very natural fit. We’re very lucky."
Bowman stressed that even though the county is a wealthy place to live, pockets of poverty and low-income families nevertheless exist and need this type of assistance. “It has always been essential for people who live with food insecurity on a regular basis. It was necessary before COVID-19. But since COVID, it has become even more necessary.”
Bowman estimated that the demand for food assistance had increased by about one third since the coronavirus became present in the county in March.
To contact staff writer Michael P. Rellahan call 610-696-1544.