For the eight years of the Valley Forge Tourism and Convention Board (VFTCB) effort to address food insecurity in the county, the Montco Anti-Hunger Network (MAHN) has been an integral partner.
Amanda Musselman, MAHN Executive Director, commented on the ongoing relationship, its impact, and its importance.
“This drive has given MAHN the nimbleness to directly respond to current pantry needs, but more important, it has given hunger in Montgomery County a voice,” she said.
Musselman continued: “Generally, Montgomery County is perceived as an affluent area. But the truth is, hunger exists throughout the whole county for seven percent of residents, as stated in Feeding America’s 2020 Annual Map the Meal Gap Report.
“Over half of those in need of food assistance make too much to qualify for nutrition programs like the [federal] Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
“Our emergency food system cannot work alone to solve this complex issue. We need the support from our community to keep our community fed.”
Informing Montgomery County residents on the demographics of exactly who the Montco Anti-Hunger Network helps is central to its ongoing success.
“The biggest misconception about hunger is that it only affects certain people or specific geographic areas. But that is not true,” Musselman stated.
“It goes beyond the general notion that hunger only affects those who are experiencing unemployment or homelessness. Hunger can affect people in all walks of life.
“The month of September is designated as Hunger Action Month. In conjunction with Feeding America, hunger relief partners rally to mobilize everyone to get involved with ending hunger in their communities.
“Food shouldn’t be an impossible choice but many people — from seniors, to young adults, to families — are having to make that impossible decision between paying for utilities or buying groceries,” she said.
“What Can My Little Donation Do?”
Musselman addressed the notion that an average resident, chipping in what may be considered a nominal contribution, has little effect on such a large-scale and vital issue.
“At face level, it can be easy to believe that an amount — $5, $10, or $20 — might not be enough to make a difference.
‘However, individual actions will always have the influence to be a catalyst for change.
“When multiple potential donors say that their ten bucks won’t mean much, it can cause a potential drive loss of tens of thousands of dollars,” she explained.
That impact is indeed significant.
“We can all play an important role in being hunger relief champions that can eliminate hunger from our community,” Musselman reminded.
The Agility of a Virtual Drive
The evidence of that impact is evidenced by the effectiveness of a virtual food drive over traditional efforts of collecting canned, boxed, and nonperishable foodstuff, Musselman noted.
“Last year, MAHN used the funding received to purchase tilapia fillets for our emergency food system (EFS),” she said.
“Montgomery County’s EFS relies on a diverse food sourcing ecosystem to meet the needs of our community from government to private support, local farmers, food drives, food rescue, and other sources.
“There are items whose high demand makes them difficult to obtain.
“With a virtual food drive, we can extend our dollar more by purchasing highly needed nutritious foods at wholesale pricing.”
What’s more, Musselman says, the county’s EFS capability offers more than just food.
“It provides a safe environment for the community to find resources to thrive,” she stated. “When you go into your local pantry and see a donation specifically from your neighbors, it reminds you someone close to home cares — and that is a powerful feeling.
“The Freedom from Hunger Drive is special to our network because at-risk residents can receive exactly what is needed most,” she reminded.
The Power of Unity
Mussleman concluded with a final thought on the power of unity in fighting a formidable foe.
“One of my favorite quotes,” she related, “is from Bernie Sanders, who said, ‘When we stand together, we will always win.’
“It can be difficult to express how a single can or a $10 donation can make a difference. But when we each do the same action in collaboration, that ripple affect can be widely felt.
“MAHN came into existence in 2014 because we saw that when the emergency food system works in coalition and collaboration, we can make an ever-bigger impact together.
“MAHN continues to operate with that connection to collaboration and community at its core,” she explained.
How to Help
MONTCO.Today readers wanting to join the VFTCB and the Montco Anti-Hunger Network in this important, countywide project can do so online.