Feeding Pennsylvania promotes and aids our member food banks in securing food and other resources to reduce hunger and food insecurity in their communities and across Pennsylvania.
Lifewerks is a nonprofit that encourages volunteering in those they serve. Using roughly 10,000 volunteer hours, they are able to supply around $100,000 worth of food and serve 15,000 people in various programs annually. As a relief organization, Lifewerks offers a wide range of programming that includes arts initiatives, garden, and other camps, nutrition classes, and financial/housing coaching. They serve as a member agency of Philabundance.
The Pennsylvania Healthy Pantry Initiative (PA HPI) is a project of Feeding Pennsylvania in partnership with the Pennsylvania Department of Health. Through these partnerships, Feeding PA is working with its member food banks to increase access to healthy food within food pantries and increase consumption of healthy food by pantry clients through various promotion methods. Seven nutrition educators have been hired across the state to work directly with the food pantries in their service areas.
Alex Evenson, a nutrition educator from Philabundance, began working with Lifewerks Food Pantry in 2019. Before getting started with the project, the first thing she did was run a baseline assessment of the pantry. The pantry had a wide range of healthy inventory already available to clients and there were many engaged volunteers. This provided several opportunities to promote the healthy inventory available through signage, nudges, and recipe cards.
After working with Philabundance the past year, Lifewerks has taken several steps to ensure that clients would be encouraged to develop healthy habits. When Alex last visited, Lifewerks pantry directors stated that their staff and volunteers were much better equipped to answer client questions after the HPI training. After the training, staff began to eliminate unhealthy purchases and also stopped accepting donations that were high in sodium and fat. When clients ask why the pantry doesn’t have more sweet foods, the volunteers explain they want to provide healthier food. In addition to adding more “foods to encourage,” Lifewerks also began to meet the needs of clients of different cultures in a more dignified way. For example, they now ask what kinds of meat clients want (whether they eat pork) and make sure they ask questions about food preferences rather than assuming. These new habits were directly attributed to HPI.
For more information on the Pennsylvania Healthy Pantry Initiative (PA HPI), please visit: https://feedingpa.org/hpi/
* Funding provided by the Pennsylvania Department of Health through the Preventive Health and Health Services Block Grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.