If anyone has ever told you that one person can’t make a measurable difference, they haven’t heard about Pam Rainey Lawler. Pam founded Philabundance in 1984 with nothing more than a 1981 Subaru station wagon and a belief that she could rescue perfectly safe and fresh food that was being discarded by restaurants and grocers and deliver it to her friends and neighbors in need. And that’s exactly what she did. An organization that started as one station wagon, one grocer and a few food pantries now consists of 12 trucks, 230 grocery stores and over 450 member agencies that feed over 75,000 people each week. As she reflected on the early days of the organization, she said:

“It’s hard to believe that 30 years ago the idea of collecting and distributing fresh, perishable foods was an untested one – and thought to be impossible. After much research, it became clear tat the surplus food available could begin to alleviate the growing problem of hunger in Philadelphia. What was missing was the middleman – the transportation system.”

Last week Philabundance celebrated 30 years of fighting hunger in the Delaware Valley with their first ever “Beet Hunger Bash”, held at the Simoene Foundation Automotive Museum. The venue selection was a nod to the organization’s “Driving Hunger From Our Communities” tagline and featured a tasting from restaurant partners: Brulee Catering, Chef’s Table, Hai Street Kitchen, Jake’s Sandwich Board, Lo Spiedo, Marabella Meatball Co., Miss Rachel’s Pantry, Perch Pub, R2L, and Varalli Restaurant. Dinner was provided by Bryce’s Catering and was served family-style (great for sparking dinner conversation!). I definitely lingered a bit longer than necessary around the mini desserts and cupcakes that were baked by the current Philabundance Community Kitchen class.

The program celebrated Pam’s passion and commitment and presented the issue of hunger in a very real and human way. It’s easy to focus on hunger statistics and lose sight of the human aspect of the issue. It’s easy to think of those who suffer from hunger as somehow beneath us, or different than us. The reality is that hunger can happen to anyone. A large percentage of those who suffer from hunger are elderly who are unable to survive on social security, children, and low-income wage earners. Senior Vice President and Chief Development Officer Susan Fink challenged the audience to change our perspective with a simple yet powerful question: “Do I pay this bill, or do I put food on my table?”

How many of us make a great income but because of our spending habits we still end up living paycheck to paycheck? A job loss, an injury, or a death in the family can turn any family living situation upside down. Like most of you, I’ve never experienced real hunger, but I can imagine the overwhelming fear, insecurity and stress of having no idea where my next meal was going to come from. So let’s show compassion instead of judgement. Let’s allow the reality of hunger to motivate us to be a part of the solution instead of feeling sorry for those affected by it.

To join the fight against hunger and to make a donation to Philabundance (just $1 provides 2 meals…ps) visit www.philabundance.org.

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