Bucks Knocks Out Hunger Fills A Gap

June 8th, 2018

By Marissa Christie / President and CEO United Way of Bucks County

In Bucks County, 16 percent of all children are food insecure. Bucks Knocks Out Hunger, United Way of Bucks County’s annual hunger-fighting initiative, has a growing role in providing hunger relief and improving nutrition for these families.

People have been considering the correlation between food and health since at least 460 BC when Greek physician Hippocrates declared, “Let food be thy medicine.”

Now, a scant 2,500 years later, more present-day physicians are adopting the mantra as a movement called “food as medicine” continues to gain momentum, locally and nationally.

The consequences of hunger, food insecurity and a poor diet can be life and death — even in America. According to a May 2017 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, access to healthy foods in childhood and adolescence is not only essential for growth and development, but also to prevent illness.

A growing body of evidence shows that a poor diet in the early years can increase the risk for lung, esophageal, stomach, colorectal and prostate cancers. Conversely, access to healthy food significantly reduces the risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, osteoporosis – and even dental cavities – later in life.

Food, in effect, serves as preventative care, making the stakes high for local families who can’t afford it.

In Bucks County, 16 percent of all children are food insecure. Bucks Knocks Out Hunger, United Way of Bucks County’s annual hunger-fighting initiative, has a growing role in providing hunger relief and improving nutrition for these families.

This is particularly important for low-income, working families whose income is just above the threshold for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance (SNAP), also known as food stamps.

“Let’s say there’s a family of four here in Bucks County with an income of $40,000. They would earn too much to receive SNAP benefits, but far too little to afford a place to live, utilities and healthy food,” said Matt Uhler, Impact Director for Financial Stability at United Way of Bucks County. “We want to serve all families who need help, but we really think about the families caught in that gap a lot when we are working on BKO.”

Many of these families turn to programs like BKO Hunger for help. This year the event will package 125,000 healthy, shelf-stable meals, as well as provide funding that will be used to provide food pantries with lean meats and dairy products. A portion of the funds raised this year will also support Fresh Connect, the new, free mobile farmers markets that visit Bristol, Ottsville and Warminster each week, serving hundreds of families in need.

Tim Philpot, the coordinator of BKO Hunger for United Way, said that many who attend Fresh Connect are aware of the health benefits of eating a healthy diet, but can’t afford fresh produce for their family.

“It’s unfortunate, but on the whole, buying healthy foods costs more than eating processed foods and junk. Through Bucks Knocks Out Hunger and Fresh Connect, we’re ensuring that people have enough to eat and, more importantly, that what they are eating is healthy,” Philpot said.

The catch, he notes, is that to provide much needed help for families in need, the BKO Hunger campaign must generate at least $80,000 this year, all of which helps eliminate hunger and improve nutrition locally.

So far, the program has raised $46,000, which means United Way of Bucks County and BKO partners must raise an additional $34,000 by June 22.

“It’s the generosity of Bucks County donors that makes BKO successful,” Philpot said. “Without their support, we would never be able to do this.”

BKO Hunger sponsor organizations include Penn Community Bank as presenting sponsor, as well as BB & T, Bucks County Community College, Bucks County Women’s Initiative, Comcast, Corporate Visions, Cummins Power Systems, Dow, First National Bank and Trust of Newtown, Parx, PECO, St Philips Episcopal Church and Suez Water Technologies and Solutions.

Donations are accepted online at www.uwbucks.org/bkohunger and through coin canisters in organizations throughout the county (a list of locations is available at theintell.com and buckscountycouriertimes.com). Contributions also may be made at branches of Penn Community Bank or by mailing a check (note BKO Hunger on the memo line) to United Way, 413 Hood Blvd., Fairless Hills, PA 19030.

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