Eileen Chapman and Lori Swank understand the power of good food. As Agape’s executive director and director of programs and personnel, respectively, they see the difference it makes. Through their partnership with the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank, Agape runs multiple food programs, including pantries, BackPack programs, food rescue, and Fresh Express. Fresh Express is a particular godsend for Agape clients, because it gives them access to fresh produce that they cannot necessarily afford on their own. Lori explains how the Food Bank’s relationship with the Mid-Atlantic Regional Cooperative (MARC), provides Agape’s clients with nutritious fruits and vegetables year-round.
“Obviously, we like the relationship the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank has with MARC, because it does extend the produce season, so to speak,” said Lori. “When we’re getting produce in the winter, it just adds to the nutritional and health aspects our clients gain from that relationship. Our clients also benefit from our food rescue relationships with local farmers and retailers.”
“It takes all of these things to come together and really make a stable situation for people that really cannot go out and buy these items. If you put a value on the food we are handing out, it’s astronomical. Especially when our clients are spending money on medications they need, bills they have and transportation they require.” Agape and the Food Bank are supplying these clients with food they need so they do not have to make difficult choices between food and other expenses.
However, having healthy food available is not enough if clients cannot access it. Agape implemented a Senior Fresh Express for individuals who are not able to get to the center and go through the normal line. Once a month after the regular Fresh Express distribution, volunteers fill bags for seniors and deliver them directly. Eileen also recently learned that these recipients will sometimes get together for a community meal at the Senior Assisted Living Center to share the foods that are too much for them to eat on their own.Eileen is proud that the Senior Fresh Express provides a sense of fellowship that these people may not have otherwise.
“The food creates families that aren’t necessarily related,” Eileen said. “But you can always have an extended family, and that’s what they do.”